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By: one million words, Pete Jahn
Feb 05 2008 12:13am
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Creature Type nOOb in Lorwyn Block Constructed, Part I
I have been playing a lot of extended, as well as trying to see how long I can keep playing in MED leagues without buying more MED packs. I have not played any Lorwyn block constructed (LBC), and decided to try out the format. I decided to start cold. I would build decks from scratch, and learn the format by trial and error. I decided not to read any of the LBC articles on the net, look at netdecks or watch PE replays. I decided to attack the format theoretically, like we used to do back in the old days – back when our computers were steam powered and Fifth Edition was just a rumor.
I also have some limitations when it comes to cards. I have played some Lorwyn sealed and draft – mainly during the release events – but my collection is not huge. I have to work around those limitations. OTOH, my collection is not completely shabby – I did win a fair number of packs in those drafts and sealed events, and someone did trade me a dozen Lorwyn Tournament Packs for some paper judge foils. The end result is that I have playsets of most commons and a fair number of uncommons, but not of most rares. 
The first step to learning a format is to build a simple, straightforward deck, then start banging it up against other decks. The simple, straightforward decks are generally weenie beatdown decks. 
The classic weenie beatdown tribe is Goblins. Small red creatures, backed with burn, has been either good or unstoppable in many formats, ever since Tempest block.   This version would be a bit darker, since Goblins are black in LBC, but the concept is the same. Besides, I could cheat a bit here: I was judging when Sam Black rode his goblin builds to victory at Midwest Regionals and the Win a Car tournaments.  
The downside was that I simply did not own the cards. I have two copies of Squeaking Pie Sneak, on Wort, Boggart Auntie, one Auntie’s Hovel and zero Mad Aunties. I did have four Tarfires and a couple copies of Fodder Launch, but that does not make a deck. Sure, I could buy the cards, but I did not want to buy cards until I had some idea whether they were any good.
Fortunately, weenie beatdown comes in colors other than red. White Weenie was a standard format long before Tempest block – although back then WW relied on Armageddon. Armageddon let WW drop some threats, then wipe out all mana, making it difficult for an opponent to play removal. That strategy is no longer possible. Now, WW beatdown is all about speed.
The formula for a weenie beatdown deck is pretty straightforward.
* 16-18 one drops, preferable 2 power or better.
* 12-16 two drops, all at least 2 power or better.
* A handful of three drops and finishers.
* Some Glorious Anthem effects, if possible.
* Some card advantage engines or token producers, to help recover if the initial rush fails.
* Combat tricks, if good enough, replaced by removal if nothing else works.
* Lands
One of the great advantages of MTGO is that the deck editor makes finding these cards pretty easy. You just set the filter to Lorwyn block, and right click white. The disadvantage to that ease is that it often shows me, pretty quickly, that my collection is limited. In this case, however, I am not too badly off. I once opened a Mirror Entity, and twice Militia’s Pride, so I have drafted white a couple times.
Starting with the one drops, I see Burrenton Forge Tender, Goldmeadow Dodger, Goldmeadow Harrier and Goldmeadow Stalwart. Forge Tender is okay, if I see a lot of red decks, but not amazing otherwise. Dodger is just a 1/1 with a pretty useless ability, so it will not see play. A card really needs to provide at least a 2/1 body, or a solid ability, to justify inclusion.  The ability to run past monsters – but not walls – is not solid. The Harrier, on the other hand, will let me get past monstrous blockers late game, and I will definitely play four of those. Finally, Stalwarts are 2/2s for one mana, which is just what I need. I have three, and they look good enough to justify a quick run to the MTGOTradersbot for a fourth.  The deck would love another Savannah Lions, but you play what you have.
Lorwyn has a number of two drops in white. Some, like (Judge of Current) have no size and no synergy with Kithkin, which is clearly where WW beatdown has to go in LBC.  Others, like Kinsbaile Skirmisher are LOTs – limited only tweaks – in other words cards that are only useful in limited. Kinsdale Skirmisher is basically a Grizzly Bear with a minor ability, and not worth considering. Likewise, Kithkin Greatheart is useful only if you run Giants, and  probably not even then.
Two cards are clearly just fine in a beatdown deck: Knight of Meadowgrain and Wizened Cenn. Both are 2/2 for two mana with very positive abilities – and best of all, I own playsets of both. (I guess I drafted white more often than I thought.) I’m not a huge fan of Cenn’s Heir, but it seems to fit.
The three drops were more problematic. The first option is Mirror Entity. That card is clearly great, but I only own two.  I could try Avian Changeling, but a 2/2 for three mana does not seem all that good – even if it does have flying. (Kithkin Balloonist), a 2/2 for four mana, is even worse. Kithkin Harbinger does fetch Kithkin, but the card I want at the top end of my mana curve should be something that beats for the win, not a 1/3 Worldly Tutor. On the plus side, I do own two copies of Thoughtweft Trio, which may work as a big finisher. They are worth a try.
I also own a couple copies of Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile. Brigid is a LOT. She can help win limited matches, but she does not look all that useful in constructed. (Note: after playing the format more, I can envision a use – I’ll talk more about that later. My first thought, however, is that any four drop has to be more than a 2/3.)
I looked long and hard at Oblivion Ring. On the plus side, it is a great piece of removal, and affordable. On the down side, it does not beat. This is a weenie beatdown deck: it does not win by answering threats. It wins by dropping threats faster than the opponent can deal with them. Oblivion Ring will find a spot in the sideboard, in case I run up against the Lorwyn equivalent of Moat or Razormane Masticore, but it does not belong maindeck. Oblivion Ring is the sort of thing that a mid-range control deck might field.
Let’s move on to pump effects and card advantage engines. Wizened Cenn is a nice pump effect, but I want more. Cenn looks like it will die to everything from Tarfire to Shriekmaw, and more is always better. I own two copies of Ajani Goldmane, and those look like automatic inclusions. I foresee the pump / vigilance as being the most useful ability. After that, Surge of Thoughtweft is both a pump spell and a cantrip – and I have both won and lost limited games to that card, so it’s worth trying. The mass pump and cantrip ability raise it over the alternative tricks like Triclopean Sight or Battle Mastery
Finally, I will be beating fast, with a lot of small guys and a few Crusade effects. If any deck can make use of a card like Militia’s Pride, this is it. It’s worth a try.
Lands are pretty straightforward. I want to drop creatures fast and often. I never want to miss a one or two drop because my lands come into play tapped, and I don’t want other colors. I am going to play Plains. I briefly considered Windbrisk Heights, but the comes-into-play-tapped problem was almost certainly a deal breaker.  The fact that I don’t have any was almost irrelevant: I might have tired them, but I doubt it.
Here’s what I started with, to test the format.
Goldmeadow Harrier
Goldmeadow Stalwart
Burrenton Forge-Tender
Cenn's Heir
Knight of Meadowgrain
Wizened Cenn
Mirror Entity
Thoughtweft Trio

Militia's Pride
Ajani Goldmane
Surge of Thoughtweft

24 Plains
Wizened Cenn
I also needed a sideboard, since I was going to play this in the Tournament Practice room. I didn’t spend a lot of time on that initially. Sideboards are reactive, and used to shore up bad matchups. Since I had no idea what the matchups were, much less what would shore them up, I kept it simple. Four Oblivion Rings were the obvious starting point, since they could remove anything. I decided to run a pair of Wispmares to fight opposing Rings. I also wanted some targeted removal, so I added both the Crib Swaps I own, plus some Moonglove Extracts as a colorless burn spell and targeted removal. After that I had no ideas, so I filled in with Neck Snap – which I never sided in – a couple Avian Changelings and a copy of Purity, which I doubt I could ever cast, but I onw it so it's in the deck.
Okay, I took this to the casual play area, tournament practice room, and went at it. 
I battled against a RW Giants deck on occasion. I’m not sure if that is really a viable archetype or not, but it was a bit slow. I sided in a pair of Avian Changelings and two Crib Swaps for the Cenn’s Heirs, and won both matches. Brion is a house – but Giants don’t beat when you have a Forge Tender in play. I still have mixed feelings about the Cenn’s Heirs. They are really good when you have an active Militia’s Pride, but they suck when your opponents have a lot of removal, which this deck had.  In any case, I won both of these matches.
I have played against a couple variant Elemental decks. They win if they get a fast Smokebraider, then drop Mulldrifters and fatties. Once Aethersnipes start hitting the table, you are pretty much done. However, if they do not get a fast Smokie and a good draw, the white weenie deck just runs them over. I considered siding in the Extracts to kill Smokebraider, but I don’t really want to slow my deck down. At best, a couple Crib Swaps might be worthwhile. A half dozen matches are not enough to really know.
I have played against a couple GB Treefolk decks. Treefolk Harbinger fetching Nameless Inversion is a pain, because it really slows you down. Against this archetype, you either win fast or lose.  I sided out the Forge-Tenders, which did little, in place of some removal and/or the Changelings.
I have never seen a Goblins deck. I don’t know if that is because the deck does not work, or just because match-ups are random, and I missed it. 
I played against a number of UBx decks. These decks seems to be all about card advantage. They run Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw and sometimes Mournwhelk – plus Makeshift Mannequin to reuse these.   They vary considerably, but I did note one common fact – they were all somewhat slow. The decks tended to have a lot of card advantage, but not a lot of big win conditions. Generally, they just beat down for several turns with Shriekmaws or Mulldrifters. I lost if they began with starts like turn two evoke Shriekmaw, turn three evoke Mulldrifter, turn four Mannequin Shriekmaw.  Against slow starts, I could swarm them. 
I had not really strong sideboard cards, although Crib Swap is nice. If you hit with Crib Swap, you don’t have to worry about the creature coming back as a Mannequin. Conversely, however, they did have a solid sideboard card against me. Although this format does not really have a Wrath of God, Final Revels certainly does basically the same thing against the White Weenie deck. I doubt I won more than one game (of many) after this resolved. 
Finally, I have also played against a UB Faeries deck, although more often with the control deck I have now built. I’ll talk more about that later. Suffice it to say that it is a big problem, and Scion of Oona is a pain. All you can do is race and hope they draw badly. Fortunately, this deck is fast enough that you can often win the race. (I’ll talk more about that deck, and about how our evil Editor* kicked my head in with it – probably next article.)
Overall, the deck works. It is fast, and speed kills, at least fairly often. If beatdown is your style, this might be a good option. It seems pretty much as fast as a typical Standard beatdown deck.
The format has no – or at least no playable – board sweepers. It is lacking Wrath of God or Pyroclasm effects (except for Final Revels. In that respect, it feels more like an overgrown draft format than constructed. 
The mana seems to work. I have seen (and played) three color decks that have no problem finding all the right colors. I have also seen five color Elemental decks. The Vivid lands and so forth can provide enough colors for multiple splashes. 
The control decks look to be working well. You can, apparently, win with card advantage and control elements.  However, a lot of these decks have nothing but 2/2s ad 3/2s to win with.  Something like Brigid could destroy those decks.  The donside, of course, is that it is not easy to resolve Brigid against a control deck, and if you do, Aethersnip is still going to wreck the Brigid plan. 
Nameless Inversion is nuts.
The format seems to lack combo decks.   I haven’t seen one played against me, and the couple I have toyed with do not seem particularly fast or consistent. It’s possible that I just missed seeing all the combo decks, but I doubt it.
As for the deck, I like most of the cards – although this deck would kill for a Chrome Mox to be in the format. The strongest appear to be the WW cards, the Stalwart and Mirror Entity. Burrenton Forge-Tender, on the other hand, really belongs in the sideboard, and would be there if we had any other one drops. I also have some concerns about Thoughtweft Trio. Once in a while it shines, as against some removal decks and against other weenies. At other times, it is marginal to bad. If the opponent is playing removal and bounce, it can often be stranded, or when you are finally forced to cast it, a quick spell can leave it without anything to Champion. 
If you want to try out LBC, this is probably a good place to start. The deck is cheap and straightforward. It can win. I have even had one person tell me that a variant won a PE, but I haven’t verified that. 
I don’t know for sure what will happen when Morningtide hits. Odds are that white weenie will still be viable, but that is never a given. Morningtide brings some nice additions, including a better one drop, but it also provides other archetypes with some gifts as well. Testing will be necessary.
Next article – and it will be next article, because I am over 2.5k words already, I will try to build a control deck for the format, and take that out for a spin. Ultimately, I want to take one of my builds into a PE, and do a tournament report, but I don’t know whether I can finish that before the MTGO world goes dark. After that – once v3 is here – I may have other things to talk about.
“one million words” on MTGO
* It’s nothing personal. JXClaytor is probably a nice person, and all, but to writers all editors are vile, unholy beings that do dreadful and unspeakable things to our carefully crafted prose. And the fact that his deck beat the crap out of mine did nothing to soften my opinion.


Limited trick vs Smokebraider by Klutz (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 16:03
Klutz (Unregistered)'s picture

You've already got Goldmeadow Harrier maindeck.  Just "port" them by tapping Smokebraider with Harrier in their upkeep.

LBC by Jimb0v (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 14:49
Jimb0v (Unregistered)'s picture

It is rare in Premier events and 8 man queues to see anything other than UBxManequin or BGelves.  This is why most of the UBx decks you played were slow.  IN the beggining all these decks packed 4 shriekmaw and 4 nameless inversion.  Which means you just auto win vs. weenie white and a lot of other strategies.  As the metagame has evolved, people essentially started playing with creatures that were immune to removal.

One way to look at this is to go through each of the creatures and give it a score based on how many of the removal spells in the format kill it.  For example, take Shriekmaw, Nameless Inversion and Eyeblights Ending.  Using this simple analsyis you can see why some of the creatures are seeing play:

 Nath - 3/3 it can't be killed by any of those spells

Cairn Wanderer - 3/3 it can't be killed by any of those spells

Horde of Notions - 2/3 Eyeblight takes him out

Marsh Fitter - 0/3 everything kills it, but only kills 1/3 of it.

Cloudgoat Ranger -0/3 same as fitter

Dread - 2/3

 Now take a look at some of the cards which look powerful, but really aren't

 Brion - 1/3 its just out of inversion range.

Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile - 0/3 All 3 spells kill it

Cloudthresher 1/3

Galepowder Mage - 0/3

Anyway, I could go on and on.  But this is why you see oblivion ring and Chandra being used in the UBx decks.  These cards deal with every single creature in the format and in the case of oblivion ring it even kills planeswalkers.

 The long and short of it is that I think WW is fine for game 1 because anyone smart is tuning there deck game 1 to beat the mirror.  Game 2, you had better have an awesome plan to beat 4 shriekmaw, 4 nameless inversion, 2 final revels, 4 oblivion rings, because almost any of the UBx decks can side into that.  Its possible they even have more hate than th at, with sower of temptation, Chandra and eyeblights ending.






good question. by one million words at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 10:14
one million words's picture

The Crib Swap can also deal with an big, fat Elemental, if they drop one mid game.  A chump blocker can only stop most of the beaters for one turn - an Aethersnipe or similar fattie can do so for a lot longer.

Of course, Extract can go to the head as well.  I could see boarding either.

why crib swap for smokebraiders? by plarp (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 02/05/2008 - 05:56
plarp (Unregistered)'s picture

Hi Pete,

I really enjoyed the article! It's an interesting way to explore a format, without influence from the rest of the internet. I don't know if this means you're not looking for suggestions, but this is more of a question anyway: Why Crib Swap againt Smokebraider-powered elementals? Surely Moonglove Extract kills their 1/1 mox just as dead - at the same mana - and doesn't leave a 1/1 chump blocker in your path?

I'll look forward to the next one, thanks for writing!