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By: LeagueGeek, J-P Voilleque
Dec 05 2007 9:28pm
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Regular 4-week Lorwyn leagues have started up on MTGO, so it seems a good time to open up some boosters and pit your skills against fellow MTGO'ers.  Heath has asked the League Warriors to get busy and write some sealed deck articles for Pure MTGO.  As a clan, we are many things, but first and foremost, we are verbose.  And so without further ado, let's talk sealed deck!

Holiday calendar note: while there's nothing like a little competition to build that holiday excitement, you should try to schedule your league not to end on, say, Christmas Eve or some equally tragic timeframe.  It's four weeks of your life, remember.  You need to think ahead somewhat.

A quick league primer - skip if you know this stuff:

Leagues are sealed deck tournaments with a pool of 256 players and no limit to the number of matches you can play.  The first five matches of any week will count toward your point total (two points for a win, one for a loss).  The remainder of your matches will provide tiebreaker points (two points are awarded for a win, and one point is subtracted from your tiebreaker total for a loss).  One vital point is that "counting matches" roll over from week to week, so if you only play four counting matches in the first week, you'll have six matches to play in week two before you start playing tiebreakers.

Each week, on the day the league spawned, you'll get to add a booster pack if you so choose.  Generally speaking, you should add a booster. People will sometimes not add a booster when they've pulled cards that pay for the cost of the league, or when their pool is so atrocious that you'd rather just muddle through and hope for a rebate of a pack or two.  In the first case, the pure, boring economics are such that adding boosters decreases your rate of return, without necessarily increasing your deck's winning chances.  This only holds true if your cards carry value well (painlands, Birds of Paradise, or Wrath of God in 10th Edition, for example), because you will not be able to "cash in" until the league ends four weeks down the road, and your foil Guile may have fallen out of favor or dropped in value for other reasons.  

The second reason puts us in firmly in a gray area, and is really a question of temperament.  In some cases, your pool is not great, but could be great with the addition of certain pieces.  The question then becomes, do you put the league on hold until week two, open a booster, and play ten counting matches?  Or do you go for it with a "just okay" deck?  On the one hand, you can probably get some "playskill" wins against other players, receive some defeats based on pure card power, and generally muddle through.  On the other hand, if you start off with a 2-3 or 1-4, the best you can realistically hope for is to end up in the top sixty four (two boosters).  Some people (myself included) tend to want to play immediately, and so the prospect of waiting a week and adding a booster to an iffy pool just isn't that attractive.  I think it's probably a valuable learning experience to play the mediocre pool, but you have to be ready to pay for the knowledge in match losses.

The perennial complaint about leagues is that "booster day" is the only chance to get matches against players without bomb pools.  Generally speaking, the later in the week, the more likely it is that you will be paired up with someone trying to accumulate tiebreaker points for their undefeated or X-1 deck (the difference between 1st and 5th is 18 boosters, so people get pretty serious about rankings at the top).  One tip that still appears to work is to pop yourself out of the "Waiting for Players" queue every 90 seconds or so.  The system waits for a while before they pair players playing for rank with a player playing for tiebreakers.  This is a hassle, though, so generally the more of your matches you can complete as the league is filling up or during "booster day" in later weeks, the better.  Again, playing against the best players (or best pools) in the league is not necessarily a bad thing.  You learn a lot more than in the matches where your opponent sits on Tarfire for several turns while you're at one life, then uses it to take out a Silvergill Douser.  (Yes, this really happened.)

Okay, them's the basics.  Now some thoughts on Lorwyn:

The fundamental truth of Lorwyn sealed is that you will sometimes play a color for the sake of tribal interactions, and not because it is the strongest color.  With Wanderer's Twig, Shimmering Grotto, the Vivid lands, and Smokebraider providing mana fixing, you can often splash for the must-have commons in other colors (Mulldrifter, Nameless Inversion, Oblivion Ring) and otherwise maximize tribal synergies.  There are definitely ways to make sealed pools work without a tribal theme, but the themes can be so potent that when presented with a choice between a color that benefits the tribe and a color that just has good cards, you should probably err on the side of the tribe.

An example is my current league deck.  The maindeck is blue/white, splashing black for Nameless Inversion and Peppersmoke:

1 Drowner of Secrets
1 Goldmeadow Stalwart
1 Inkfathom Divers
1 Judge of Currents
1 Kinsbaile Balloonist
1 Kithkin Greatheart
1 Kithkin Harbinger
1 Merrow Reejerey
1 Mulldrifter
1 Oaken Brawler
1 Paperfin Rascal
1 Springjack Knight
1 Stonybrook Angler
1 Turtleshell Changeling
1 Wizened Cenn
1 Broken Ambitions
1 Familiar's Ruse
1 Fathom Trawl
1 Moonglove Extract
1 Nameless Inversion
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Peppersmoke
1 Wanderer's Twig
8 Island
6 Plains
2 Swamp
1 Shimmering Grotto
Oblivion Ring

Notable sideboard cards in the colors include Faerie Trickery, Glimmerdust Nap (a card I persistently undervalue), Shield of Velis Veil and Footbottom Feast.  With two lords and the Drowner of Secrets, I really need to take a harder look at the Shield.  Sideboarded in, it has already won me a game in which I was able to take my opponent from eight cards in his deck to two when he finally found removal for the Drowner.  Not to mention those situations when giving all my guys +2/+3 for one white mana would, say, win the game outright.  Changeling is tricky, man.

This seems like such a no brainer that it's a little silly to be talking about it , but that's because you haven't seen the red:

1 Axegrinder Giant
1 Boggart Forager
1 Boggart Sprite-Chaser
1 Caterwauling Boggart
1 Ceaseless Searblades
1 Flamekin Harbinger
1 Ingot Chewer
1 Inner-Flame Acolyte
1 Inner-Flame Igniter
1 Lowland Oaf
1 Smokebraider
1 Soulbright Flamekin
1 Tar Pitcher
1 Needle Drop

Nice Elementals, yo.  Three of them have activated abilities (with the Turtleshell Changeling providing a fourth in the deck), making Searblades a contender for man of the match, and the Smokebraider can also power out my Mulldrifter and/or the Mournwhelk I have in my black pile (which has no place in the blue-white but might splash here).  Even the Axegrinder would play a role, shoring up the ground during the mill-o-matic, or gaining trample and smashing over.  Red is tragically short on removal, but Smokebraider can cast Nameless Inversion all on his own, and with two awesome card drawers I think you could even risk four colors, with a white splash for Oblivion Ring.  So Blue Red black or Blue Red black white is not unreasonable.

From the perspective of tribes, there is exactly one card in Blue White black that crosses over to support the blue Merfolk, and exactly one card in URx that supports the blue Elementals.  Which has a higher value?  If you ask me, it's Judge of Currents.  Left alone, in a deck that is either attacking or milling with merfolk, he can gain upwards of two to five life per turn.  He's annoying, but not so annoying that he dies immediately - after all, he's not a win condition in his own right.  Smokebraider, most people now seem to believe, is a must-kill creature. The mana boost into two of the defining cards of the format (Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw), to say nothing of Hostility & Co., is too powerful to be allowed, and so the 'braider becomes public enemy number one in the early game.  In this deck, Judge of Currents is third on the list of "merfolk I must kill right away," behind Reejerey and Drowner of Secrets.  It is, in the absence of knowledge about a player's hand or intentions, a petty annoyance, a not-to-be-bothered-with two-drop.  By the time it gets active, there are too many other things that are actually killing your opponent to devote a spell to the Judge.  This guy stabilizes or grows your life total, allows you to ignore attacks, and generally makes life simpler for someone who might need to win by milling.

I will admit that being able to reliably cast Oblivion Ring is another solid reason to choose white over red, but with the amount of fixing available in this pool, I don't think it's an iron-clad winner.  Neither is Wizened Cenn + decent Kithkin.  This is only an aggro deck if you get an extremely specific draw.  Otherwise, you're seeking to be reactive, get good trades for your removal, and outlast them until you can mill them out.  With two lords and recurring tap effects, you can definitely alpha strike out of nowhere, but that's a bonus, not a color choice.  The tip-the-scales reason to run white is the Judge.

These synergies matter in sealed because the format can otherwise be very random.  You didn't pick this pile - it was given to you.  You have to make the absolute most of what you're given, and things that reinforce a given tribal theme are always going to be stronger than one-off "good cards."  If you're lucky, you can splash in the good cards anyway.

The Blue White black turned out to be a decent bet for week one.  I went 4-1 in counting matches this week, and now I need to get in the saddle and play a ton of tiebreaks.  Tiebreaker matches, incidentally, are a great way to try out new builds.  Even if your week was abysmal, you should still try to play some tiebreaks.  For one thing, you paid for the league, you might as well get the most out of it.  For another, you'll be more prepared for other sealed deck pools when you've really gotten under the hood of a league pool, gone for broke with 80% lame, 20% "oh my gosh, it worked!" builds, etc..

Next time (ha! Famous last words, I know, but I'll try to make sure there's actually a "next time" this time), I'll talk a bit about the added booster and pool reassessment, and I'll dig into the thorny topics of manabases and play vs. draw in Lorwyn.  Meanwhile, here are the five common/uncommon "tribal" cards that you should play no matter what:

1.  Imperious Perfect: All of the lords are extremely useful cards.  This guy puts them to shame.  Causing ridiculous interactions with elf cards, he does great all on his own (combine with blue untap tricks for truly stupid results). If you can play him, you must.  Anything that spits out bears is a bomb in limited.

2.  Fodder Launch: Goblins are funny.  Much like in Onslaught block, you can get away with weaker cards on the whole, so long as they're all goblins.  Even if you don't have many gobbos, if you have even 5 (including changelings, Runed Stalactite, etc), this is an auto-include.  Massive momentum shift or the nail in the coffin, either way this is a great card.

3.  Dreamspoiler Witches: The secret is out on this fearsome Faerie.  You do still need instants, but that's an easy "tribe" to find members for, and you should be have reasonable chances  to abuse this.  There are a lot of fair targets at just -1/-1, and don't forget that the's a 2/2 flyer for four mana...

4.  Eyeblight's Ending:  Another duh, I guess, but it's a tribal card.  It says "Elf" right there on the name. :)  Naturally you should be using it if you can, even though it can't kill the Perfect.

5.   Inner-Flame Igniter:  I have consistently underestimated this card in the same way I somehow treat Glimmerdust Nap as Dehydration's idiot cousin.  The perfect complement to an aggro elemental strategy, especially when you have Smokebraiders to help out.  But as I have been discovering (unfortunately, by being on the wrong end of the beatdown), this also does absurd things with regular old creatures.  It even plays defense in decks that can hold back mana (who wants to trade their Huntmaster for some random 1/1 that gets pumped?).  Might not deserve to be top five, but I look forward to learning more about this guy.


Thanks guys - by LeagueGeek at Thu, 12/06/2007 - 12:52
LeagueGeek's picture

Anon - Fixed.  That's one of those spellchecker-can't-do-everything things. :(

Wu-Lan - Thanks for the comments!  As you suspected, the Kithkin are there because they're not bad as far as bodies go, and can go on the offensive if my opponent gets stuck on lands or otherwise has a bad draw.  Harbinger fetches my Nameless Inversion, and Springjack Knight can get me some clash action if need be.  Because I'd rather be consistently mediocre than randomly fabulous, I'm willing to take a bit of a "do nothing" tribe as my complement to the merfolk, especially when white gives me the Judge, O-Ring, and a second lord (3/6 Turtle is pretty nice).

Footbottom Feast is very good and I found myself occasionally wishing it was somewhere in the deck, but I only sided it in for Peppersmoke in one match against treefolk when peppersmoke wasn't going to do anything.  

As for other colors, the only legitimate contender (in my opinion) was red.  Black and green were both seriously lacking in curve/tribes/good cards.  The next article is about re-examination of the whole pool on booster day, so you'll get a peek at the whole pool in all its glory.

Again, thanks for the comments and please don't hesitate to keep making them.  You may be a rookie but you clearly know your Lorwyn :)

by Wulan (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 12/06/2007 - 06:41
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Hiya, The article is a very nice introduction and insight into playing lorwyn leagues, but it does leave me with some questions.


 Is there any particular reason to have added the kithkin? The balloonist is the only seriously interesting kithkin in there; It looks as though the rest have been added because of the Cenn. My guess is most will have been standing around on the playing field as sacrificial fodder while the merfolk run the board, especially after the Cenn is removed.

Have you considered putting another color in and splashing white? (namely the Oblivion Ring, Judge Of Currents and Kithkin Balloonist) You haven't shown a lot of the cards you're not using so I couldn't say wether the other colors have a lot of potential but it seems as though your merfolk could use solid blockers for a stable board or some heavy early offense to have a do-or-die secondary winning method.

Since your current winning strategy is some specific merfolk you could consider adding footbottom feast to give them a second chance and it is a pretty effective cantrip in the rare cases that you have no use for it.


As I'm a rookie in the game I'm not sure wether my suggestions have any merit, if so I'm interested why the suggestions are not as good as I think them to be.


Hope you enjoy the rest of the league,


by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 12/06/2007 - 09:36
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You get 1 point for a match loss in league play, not 0.

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