Pyrosin's picture
By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Oct 23 2007 9:54am
Login or register to post comments

Cycles.  A group of cards spread across a set (or block) that are linked through a unifying mechanic.  I think cycles are a lot of fun.  Cycles can be comprised of big, flashy rares meant to sell the set, or they can just be run of the mill commons showing off a new faucet of the set.  I find the most enjoyable aspect of cycles to be the insights they provide into the color pie.  Cycles let us compare and contrast mechanics and costs across the five Magic colors.  If you want to read a more in-depth analysis of cycles, then I would suggest you read MaRo's article from Cycle Week entitled, "Zen and the Art of Cycle Maintenance."

Lorwyn gives us a nice mix of cycles.  Besides the "traditional" five card, monocolor and colorless cycles, we also see some eight card cycles featuring the eight Lorwyn tribes. In this article I am going to discuss my initial impressions of the Lorwyn cycles in regards to their power, fun, and or flavor.  Given the tribal nature of Lorwyn, it's not surprising to find that most of the cycles involve creatures.  But that said, its hard not to start with the cycle that features a whole new card type.

Planeswalkers  à Ajani Goldmane / Jace Beleren / Liliana Vess / Chandra Nalaar / Garruk Wildspeaker

pic=(Garruk Wildspkeaker)

Call of the Herd, eat your heart out.

Maybe you have heard that Lorwyn features a new card type... what were they called again? Oh yeah, PLANESWALKER !!!
The Planeswalkers are, by far, the most exciting cycle in the set.  They have had such an important part of the MTG storyline that I am glad Wizards has finally found a way to include them directly in the game.  It just seems fun to summon a mini-ally mage that is always carrying around the same three spells with him or her.

Five splashy, loose, monocolor rares.  As the first of their kind, each Planeswalker was designed to be as defining of their color as possible.  My favorite is Garruk Wildspeaker.  I can not think of another single card in all of Magic history that screams out what it means to be "GREEN" more than this guy.

So Planeswalkers are linked to you through "Loyalty" counters, which start as that number in the lower right hand corner of the card where the P/T should be.  You add or remove Loyalty counters by using one of the Planewalker's abilities which grant or cost different numbers of counters.  Your opponent lowers your Planeswalker's Loyalty by attacking the Walker or by dealing damage to you and then redirecting it to them.  I wonder if damage prevention will become more prevalent in order to protect Planeswalkers from burn.  Where's Healing Salve when you need it?  I also wonder how long we'll have to wait to see a card that says "Put "X" Loyalty counters on target Planeswalker."  What color would that spell be?  Maybe they'll put it on an artifact with an activated ability or something.  I don't know, but I'm real exciting to play with this cycle of cards.

Elemental Incarnations  à Purity/ Guile / Dread / Hostility / Vigor

This cycle pays homage to the cycle of  uncommon incarnations from Judgment that included such favorites as Anger and Wonder.  In the present incarnation, we get a tight, monocolor cycle of rares.  Each one costs three generic mana and CCC, has six power and six toughness, and is shuffled back in your library when it finds its way to the graveyard from anywhere.  Like the Judgment cycle, I really like how the single noun names invoke a particular feeling or emotion associated with each color. 

To this point, Hostility seems to be getting the most hype of the bunch.  I don't know how much competitive play it will see, but the ability to turn a Shock into six damage to the dome, Incinerate into nine, or Psionic Blast into twelve gives this guy some major potential.  At least Hostility + Lotus Bloom + all the burn you want seems like a whole lot of fun.  Shoot, Lotus Bloom plus any of the incarnations seems like a good start to a casual deck.

Can someone please tell me what that's a picture of?

Commands  à Austere Command / Cryptic Command / Profane Command / Incendiary Command / Primal Command

Vengeance lite. 
Same price, half the card.

The commands comprise a loose, but powerful cycle of monocolor rares.  Each command gives you four options, and you get to choose two of them.  The built in versatility of these cards make them very powerful, in the abstract.  I say in the abstract, because in order to be powerful more than two of the abilities have to be useful.  On this front, the Blue one, Cryptic Command is the strongest.  Its the only instant in the cycle which resulted in the most color-intensive casting cost of the cycle at 1UUU.  But I'm not going to talk about this one because it already received its own preview article.

So instead I'd like to say a few words about Austere Command.  I bring up the White command because I want you to look at it in comparison to Akroma's Vengeance.  For the same price, you get half an Akroma's Vengeance.  If you were playing back during Onslaught block, then you'll remember that was the first tribal based block.  You will also remember that Akroma's Vengeance, Starstorm, and Slice and Dice were everywhere in block and standard constructed wiping boards clean of creatures what seemed like every other turn.  Not a good thing for a creature based block.  R&D said they were conscience of their mistake and that they would not be repeating it in Lorwyn.  Between this command and the Red Command's expensive Pyroclasm, I'm glad to say mass removal in Lorwyn block feels a lot more fair ...

...then again, we've still got to deal with Wrath of God and Damnation in standard, but oh well.

Vivid Lands  à Vivid Meadow / Vivid Creek / Vivid Marsh / Vivid Crag / Vivid Grove

Not a lot to say about these guys. It's a tight, uncommon, colorless cycle that provides some nice color fixing in every color.  The cycle looks like a powered down version of Gemstone Mine where you trade coming into play tapped to keep the land around when the counters are all gone.  Nothing flashy, well balanced, very solid cards for casual.  Good job Wizards.

Between the vivid lands, the man-lands in Tenth, and the Ravnica-mechanic powered lands in Future Sight, the only question is how many comes-into-play tapped lands are you willing to play with?

Just what we need, Magic cards with rainbows on them

Tribal Duals  à Ancient Amphitheater / Auntie's Hovel / Gilt-Leaf Palace / Secluded Glen / Wanderwine Hub

No, I didn't say its a bad land, I said its a Badlands.

The dual land cycle in Lorwyn is a bit strange.  Across the five card cycle, three give us access to black mana and only one gives access to green mana.  Three are ally-aligned colors; two are enemy-aligned colors.  When they come into play, if you can reveal a creature (or tribal) card of the correct type, then they enter play untapped.  This means that in Goblin and Elf decks, Auntie's Hovel and Gilt-Leaf Palace will be equivalent to Badlands and Bayou, respectively.  That's great.  But if the others, like Wanderwine Hub see play, then I think they may be more like Coastal Tower than Tundra.

These lands are examples of clever design both for the power level and for how well they fit the tribal theme of Lorwyn, but I've got one question.  Where's the Green/White, reveal a Kithkin land? Devin Low wrote a great article about the creation of these lands a month or so ago entitled "Revenge of the Two-Colored Weenies."  In the article he explains how these lands were designed to give aggressive weenie decks the access to mana fixing they usually don't get, but need.  So how can you make these lands and not make one for the Kithkin, the White Weenies of the set?  I know there are only three Kithkin cards with Green mana in their casting cost, but one of those three is Gaddock Teeg, who will see a ton of play.  Maybe Wizards didn't want a six card cycle, but six of the eight Lorwyn tribes include two colors.  I don't know.  If they wanted to keep it at five, then I say give us a Kithkin land over the Giant-aligned land.  Giants are not weenies, obviously.


Harbingers  à Kithkin Harbinger / Faerie Harbinger / Merrow Harbinger / Boggart Harbinger / Flamekin Harbinger / Giant Harbinger / Elvish Harbinger / Treefolk Harbinger

We now move on to the cycles of eight.  Cycles of eight are not a common occurrence in Magic history.  In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say before Lorwyn, we've never seen an eight card cycle.  Anyway, the eight card cycles are a product of the eight tribes supported in Lorwyn.  The harbingers form a loose, uncommon cycle that all have the ability to search out a tribal card of the appropriate type and put it on top of your library.  The smallest is the Flamekin Harbinger as a 1/1 for R, whereas the largest is the Giant Harbinger at 3/4 for 4R.

Due to the tribal mechanic, the harbingers provide a lot more versatility because you can go get removal cards like Tarfire with them.  Treefolk Harbinger interests me because it also lets you search for a Forest.  In Lorwyn, Wizards lets treefolk do a lot with Forest cards for the obvious flavor reasons.  I really like how the Harbinger lets you keep a one or two land hand because you can ensure you won't be missing your next land drop.  This guy will be pivotal if a treefolk deck with Doran, the Siege Tower deck backed up by Timber Protector becomes viable.

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
        - Dr. Seuss, the Lorax

Tribal Leaders  à Gaddock Teeg / Sygg, River Guide / Wydwen, the Biting Gale / Wort, Boggart Auntie / Horde of Notions / Brion Stoutarm / Nath of the Gilt-Leaf / Doran, the Siege Tower

Those antlers look uncomfortable.

Here we are.  The big, flashy legendary cycle of cards.  One for each tribe.  All rare.  All multicolor.  All of them ... well some of them playable.  Gaddock will shut down Wrath of God, Wort will give you a Shock every turn (in the worst possible case, Shock would be the best thing you could get back.) Doran will make 3/3's for G (see Treefolk Harbinger), and Nath will make Tarmogoyf even more ridiculous, if that's possible (by forcing the discard!).  Also, Wydwen can probably be a nice finisher in some kind of control deck.

Brion looks like a lot of fun.  Who doesn't love the idea of a giant just picking up everything and anything in sight and just chuckin' it?

Sygg seems boring to me. 

Horde of Notions has that silly mana cost, but I'll still end up trying to make some casual deck out of it with a bunch of evoke creatures.  I thought I'd also mention there's another legendary Elemental for the Flamekins in Ashling the Pilgrim.  You have probably heard, R&D split the Elementals into two classes, the Flamekin and the "Greater" Elementals.  So Ashling fills the legendary role for Flamekins, but since its not multicolor, its not technically part of the cycle.

There's one other legendary creature in the set; Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile.  Seems random to me, but I just wanted to make you aware of her since I mentioned all the other legends.


Tribal Lords  à Wizened CennMerrow Reejerey / Scion of Oona / Mad Auntie / Incandescent Soulstoke / Sunrise Sovereign / Imperious Perfect / Timber Protector

Elvish Champion

Seventh, not an elf.

For the final eight card cycle in Lorwyn, we have the tribal lords.  Ok, so they're not Lords, but I call them the Lords because they give all critters of the appropriate type +1/+1 which, up til recently, was an ability only found on Lords.  Remember how up until 8th edition, cards like Elvish Champion were not even elves, they were lords.  That way they didn't give themselves +1/+1.  Thankfully, Wizards came up with different templating so ELVISH Champion can now be an ELF and functionally be the same. 

Anyway, back to the Lorwyn Cycle...


Tenth, elf.

The Lords of Lorwyn are another loose cycle with three in uncommon slots and five in rare slots.  Half of them cost 2C for a 2/2.  The Kithkin trades two generic mana for an extra W, the Faerie is smaller, the Treefolk and Giant both cost more and are bigger.  I think this cycle is a lot of fun, its like everyone gets a Glorious Anthem.

Besides giving +1/+1 (the giant gives +2/+2 actually), the Lords have a second tribal mechanic.  Of all of them, I see the most potential in the Flamekin Lord.  With Incandescent Soulstoke in play you get to Sneak Attack any Elemental, which has beautiful synergy with the evoke mechanic found only on Elementals.  Between evoke and Red decks with Hostility, it looks like elementals will be very explosive.

Flame On!

Reveal Creatures  à Goldmeadow Stalwart / Silvergill Adept / Squeaking Pie Sneak / Flamekin Bladewhirl / Wren's Run Vanquisher

Savannah Lions 3.0

 The reveal creatures are another loose, monocolor five card cycle of uncommons.  I'm very impressed by the power level of these of cards.  Let's take a look at Goldmeadow Stalwart here.  When we found out that Savannah Lions would not be Tenth, there was a lot of speculation that Isamaru, Hound of Konda would be reprinted.  Well it wasn't, and now we see why.  In a dedicated Kithkin deck, Goldmeadow Stalwart is even better that Isamura because you are not hampered by the legendary rule.  In fact, you would love to these two of these guys in an opening hand.  On the flip side, if you're not playing a Kithkin deck, then the Stalwart is a vanilla 2/2 for 3W that you have no business playing.

Every member of this cycle will see heavy player.  They all cost 2 or less, and potentially rival some of the most efficiently costed creatures in Magic history; like Savannah Lions, Jackal Pup, and Watchwolf.

Companion Creatures  à Cloudgoat Ranger / Benthicore / Marsh Flitter / Hearthcage Giant / Guardian of Cloverdell 

Finally, we have one more loose, monocolor cycle of five uncommons.  They all have the added bonus that they come with their own little army of token creatures.  Then you can use that little army by either sacrificing them or tapping them to get the added effect on the original creature.  Since they all cost between four and eight mana they're not constructed worthy.  But they will be superb in limited and great fun in casual.

I just love the flavor of this cycle.  You summon a mischievous faerie, but she's leading a pair of goblins on a wild goose chase that get caught up in the middle of your epic planeswalker duel, or you summon a giant that carries Flamekin-lanterns around with him. 

Caught me if you can...

Hideaway Lands  à Windbrisk Heights / Shelldock Isle / Howltooth Hollow / Spinerock Knoll / Mosswort Bridge

I already said my peace concerning this cycle in my last article, and since I still haven't played with them, my opinion hasn't changed.  I'll just say that after reading about the rejected "treasure" mechanic in

Full Circle

Wow, the cycles account for over twenty percent of the set.  That's a pretty big percentage.  Hope I didn't miss any.  Being a new card type and all, the Planeswalkers have to be my favorite.  But of our more traditional cycles, I really like the Lords just because I know I'll end up putting them in every casual Lorwyn deck I make. 

So, which is your favorite Lorwyn cycle?  Which do you think is most powerful?  Leave a comment! 


Links by iceage4life at Wed, 10/24/2007 - 16:31
iceage4life's picture

Cards are on MTGO Traders, just no autocarding or prices yet so have to manually link.  That is what I've been doing.

by dragonmage65 at Wed, 10/24/2007 - 01:21
dragonmage65's picture

Good article. You really should use cardlinks in the headers, though, makes it easier on the readers since the set is so new.

Heh by JXClaytor at Wed, 10/24/2007 - 01:45
JXClaytor's picture

There were card links in the headers, I removed them for one reason, Gatherer was sending back error messages, and until we get Lorwyn in our system, it may have to be like that a little while longer.  I'll get on the guy who handles that :)

by Pyrosin at Wed, 10/24/2007 - 06:23
Pyrosin's picture

The links worked, Gatherer was just down when you checked them.  Its been going down a lot lately.

by Pyrosin at Wed, 10/24/2007 - 06:54
Pyrosin's picture

Links added back

by Rob Rogers at Wed, 10/24/2007 - 11:29
Rob Rogers's picture

Very nice article. Well written and a nice design.