Limited Lessons - Lorwyn Over and Under
Since I've been spending most of my column space talking about archetypes, I want to take a week off an instead talk about some over and underrated cards, as I've done in past formats. I'm going to try to stick to more general cards, both commons and uncommons, unless I feel a card is underrated in a specific archetype.
Even I am guilty of underrating this card on a regular basis. Since I try very hard to stick within tribal lines I usually leave this guy on the bench and just board him in. Where I really underrate him though is during the actual draft and I should certainly be picking him higher as a sideboard option. He really does it all against Green, with evasion, land destruction, or killing a large man. The best part is that he's a creature and Black is very good at recurring those in this format.
I still seem to get this late on Magic Online and I've actually splashed for the card on a couple of occasions. All of the guys that make tokens are very strong, but this one is on the cheap side and fits in multiple archetypes. It's a sacrifice outlet for Goblins, a powerful Faerie to tutor up with Faerie Harbinger, and it's also just three guys for one and a reasonable flier for the cost if you use the ability. When you're Black in this format it seems you want as many 187s as possible to abuse Footbottom Feast and Warren Pilferers.
Due to the lack of pinging effects in this format, utility creatures like Silvergill Douser and Goldmeadow Harrier dominate the board more than Master Decoy and Saltfield Recluse ever did. I think it was Kyle Sanchez who said to start picking this right below Nameless Inversion and I have to say I agree. Witches can dominate a game quickly if combined with Tarfire or Nameless Inversion for a cheap two-for-one.
When the set came out this was regarded as a run of the mill 2/2 flier for four just like Mana Skimmer or Screeching Buzzard. As time goes on this will gain more and more value as the importance of killing X/1s is finally being realized.
I was really wrong about this one. Initially I felt that it'd be playable in niche archetypes (specifically Goblins) and unimpressive in general. It turns out that the card is just amazing and always makes my maindeck nowadays. The bare minimum you get here is an Instant speed Raise Dead. The fact that it costs three is irrelevant since you were never casting Raise Dead on turn 1 anyway. If you are ever in a battle of attrition, if the board stalls, or if one of your bombs is killed, this is the answer to all of your problems. It also cycles in a pinch if you need to get out of a bad draw in the early game.
I've had mixed experiences with this.
On turn 6 it is very powerful because it kills your opponent's best guy and also puts pressure on either his board or his lands. This is very good against a control deck because they don't have too many ways to kill the creature it's on (besides possibly bounce), and it could start eating their lands and hurt their plans for the long game.
This will almost always kill their best guy and then likely have some other impact on their board position. It's a complicated card so you can also get your opponent to make a mistake with it, and while there are a number of ways to just kill the creature it's on or bounce it, the card should still generate some value for you. This is one I recommend you try out for yourself, as a lot of weird situations can come up with it in play.
Everyone knows this card is good, but I still don't believe it gets the respect it should. A 2/1 Flier with Flash for three mana (Aven Mindcensor, anyone?) will always be good in Limited. Pestermite is all of this and has a very strong ability.
My favorite thing to do with this guy is cast it on turn 3 in my opponent's upkeep to deny him a play for the turn. He can untap a land to effectively cost two mana or generate double White if you only have one Plains. Finally, there are the obvious combat implications where you can use him to stop a big attacker or tap down a guy so that you can swing through for the win.
All in all, this is a great card in a tight package for only 2U, and it doesn't get picked high enough for how strong it is.
This is good in the Merfolk deck since that tribe has trouble dealing with bigger guys. A lot of people are playing this in other tribes though, or just playing it in mixed bag decks, and I've been unimpressed with the results when I've tried it. The fact is that keeping up 1U every turn is very cumbersome, and makes it hard to develop your board. So while you may be staving off that key attacker, your opponent is likely just casting more guys and you're stuck leaving your mana up for this.
This is nowhere near the value of Puppeteer in a non-Merfolk strategy (I say this mainly because of the combo between this and Judge of Currents to sink your spare mana into it in exchange for life). I'd play it some of the time but generally be looking for better options in a UB Faerie build or similar.
Excellent in any type of aggressive strategy. The most linear comparison is Nantuko Disciple, except that this can't protect itself from burn. In exchange you get a sleeker model for only two mana that comes online right away and will annoy you until you find a way to kill it. This card is valuable in a number of strategies and worth more attention than it is getting now.
The last time I played this card was the prerelease, and that was because I wanted to see if it was any good or not. That being said, opponents play this against me all of the time and it never does anything. I really think this is a waste of space except in very specific decks that can make good use of the tribal ability. Kithkin Greatheart and Boggart Sprite-Chaser come to mind here, and even then I need to have a deck with very few spells to actually run this.
My advice here is to just avoid this and run basically any other spell over it. Some people will disagree with me in the forums on this, I'm sure, but the card just doesn't do enough to warrant a slot in most decks in my opinion.
This guy is unreal and not picked highly at all. On his own he's very good in this format due to the lack of pingers, but he can also go nuts easily with Smokebraider or Soulbright Flamekin. Pick this higher and you won't regret it.
I can't say enough good about the Changeling mechanic to do it justice, and when it is tacked onto a 2/2 flier for three it's a wonder this guy still isn't getting noticed like he should. Sure, any decent player knows this is a good card, but the ones who really understand the format know that this is so much more. There are really too many interactions to mention here and this guy also comes with evasion.
I was going to type up a whole paragraph about this card but then I remembered that I have ranted a few times in past articles about my feelings on it, and doing so again probably won't accomplish much. I just want to say that this card is very level 1 (if you're a poker player, you'll relate better to this) and easy to assess and play around. In fact, I think the threat of its existence is much stronger than actually having it in most of your decks.
The card is overrated by the average player and can also lead you to play a game incorrectly because you were keeping your mana up for this instead of advancing your board. A smart opponent will take advantage of this and make you waste your mana while you fall far enough behind that your Neck Snap will no longer matter.
I always want one of these in my Blue decks and am usually happy playing two, or at least boarding a second copy. The best situation for this card is turn 2 when you're on the draw, as you can regain tempo by countering your opponent's three-drop, and Clashing to make your draw smoother. It is also effective in countering bombs in the late game, especially if you've already seen them and can just keep up two mana if your opponent is on five lands and has Hostility or something similar. Power Sink was always great in Limited, and this one comes with Scry 1 for both players, which makes it even better.
This is a really odd card. It's rare to have a card that can have a range from excellent to terrible depending on the situation, but that's the Bonfire for you. It's excellent with Smokebraider or against Treefolk, medium strength in a normal deck where it's just dealing four to some guy, and terrible in some matchups where it's not only slow but also can't target anything useful. This is a tricky card to evaluate and makes me wish for the simpler days of Pinpoint Avalanche, which was always fine. In some cases this is good though, because lesser players are unable to realize when it will be truly effective, and some players even refuse to board it out when it is obviously sub-par in the matchup.
This card was an initial write-off as well that I've since come to respect a lot more. This is excellent with the Merfolk with tap abilities, and also excellent in the crazy four- or five-color decks that I love to draft. Not something I'd go putting in just any deck but this certainly has its place, and Mike Patnik was right when he criticized a pick in my walkthrough where I should've taken this. It's funny how we can be so closed-minded as Magic players and be stubborn about re-evaluating cards we consider generally unplayable when the situation arises. I can say I've learned my lesson with the Drum, but unfortunately I'm sure it's a mistake I'll make again in the future.
These are so much better than I thought initially. It could've been that Ben Peebles-Mundy was pounding it into my head that it was terrible that they came into play tapped, or it could've just been an oversight on my part. At any rate, these are amazing for splashing, and absolutely sick in multicolored decks. Even in two colors these are worth it if you don't have too many early drops to satisfy. A friend of mine compared them to bouncelands recently, and while I don't think they're anywhere near that good, they are much better than my initial impression and certainly underrated.
In closing, I want to share a very fun deck that I drafted which was also insanely powerful. I won the draft pretty easily with this deck, and it's basically the epitome of what a four-color deck can be in this format without any Smokebraiders.
Glen Elendra Pranksters
Guardian of Cloverdell
Wydwen, the Biting Gale
Hopefully some of these over and underrated evaluations opened your eyes a little, and I hope they help you to make better decisions when drafting. Next week I'll be sharing a walkthrough where I forced Elementals or some other four-color monstrosity to really explore the boundaries of the format.
Soooooo on MTGO