Serious_Fun

A beginning look at the multiplayer prospects of some of the Lorwyn tribes—plus a reader contest.

Looking at the Tribes

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The letter L!orwyn's out, and every deckbuilder's fingers are itching. Look at all those new cards—a vast wave of potential! You've started to play with them, but the sky's still the limit. What are we going to do?

Why, we're going to hold the usual multiplayer challenge! Let us now ask the question:

What Is the Most Powerful Multiplayer Card in Lorwyn?

Fistful_of_Force Here are the rules:

  1. Pick a card in Lorwyn.
  2. Write up your reason why this is the most powerful multiplayer card in Lorwyn. Since someone else will almost certainly choose your card, backing up your choice with a deck that actually shows how to win with this card (or abuse it in properly entertaining ways) would help. Alternatively, you can discuss what sorts of problems this card fixes, or entertain me with the reasons why the second season of "Heroes" is so darned slow.
  3. The wordier, the better. I like words.
  4. Send that reason to contestweasel@gmail.com with a title of "Lorwyn POWERFUL!" just so I don't confuse your fantabulous description on the delights of with someone attempting to get me to look at cheesecake pictures of his wife, all for a quite reasonable fee. Make sure you send it before midnight on Friday, November 9, 2007.
  5. The Ferrett will then pick a winner. That winner will not only get the satisfaction of having everyone who reads magicthegathering.com know that he or she has correctly identified the most powerful multiplayer card in all of Lorwyn, but will also be sent an autographed copy of that very card. (If it's a common, I'll send you a full playset.) If you think the card would be more valuable without my autograph on it, well, heck, I'll leave it off.

A couple of notes here, though:

  1. As usual, I'm not specifying the type of multiplayer. I'm usually big on Chaos Multiplayer, but if you want to specify a card that's the nuts in Emperor Magic or Two-Headed Giant, feel free!

  2. Nor am I defining "powerful" in any particular way. In the past, I've tried to box in what "powerful" means, but that just means that I get fewer and less-interesting responses. You can define it however you like.

    The more retentive of you will no doubt bristle at this, because that means that there are few guidelines for you to use when trying to figure out what "powerful" is, and OMG HOW WILL YOU WIN THE CHALLENGE WITHOUT KNOWING?

    But this isn't a math contest, where X+Y+Z always equals power. In the absence of a bunch of tournament reports showing the incredible dominance of Tarmogoyf, there will always be debate on what a "powerful" card is. (Heck, some pros think that Tarmogoyf isn't all that and the bag of chips, calling it just a vanilla critter.) Your best bet is to define your terms of what you think is powerful... even though I may disagree with you when it comes time to choose a winner.

    If this truly bothers you, feel free to hold your own contest and choose your own winner. I won't mind. After all, when you're giving your cards away to total strangers, you should be able to choose who gets them.

  3. There will also be a second prize awarded for "Best Entry." This is a catch-all for the best argument for a weaker card, or the most creative deck, or just the submission that makes me laugh the hardest. In any case, you too will receive a copy of your chosen card.

  4. This is multiplayer we're talking about. Keep that in mind. Thoughtseize is the nuts in a duel, but you'd have to make a much stronger argument for its potency in multiplayer.

On to Lorwyn!

Lorwyn is here, and the big trick about Lorwyn is this: It's all about the tribes, baby. *

I personally love tribes. Our multiplayer game is awash in tribal decks—the endless recycling of my Rebels, the potent assaults of Ian's Soldier decks, the stretched-thin silliness of Josh's Monks deck, and the endless sucking of my Thallid deck. **

Spidersilk Armor
Not cat-themed.
Some tribes are better than others. For example, the Cat tribe has a lot of members, but not a whole lot of synergy with each other. That makes sense, I suppose—Cats are independent by nature. But it doesn't help much when you have to throw non-Cat cards into your deck to keep the whole thing functioning.

An actual conversation from last night:

Me: "Spidersilk Armor? In your Cat deck?"

Paul: "Hey, cats climb trees! And they hate flying things!"

Me: "Do cats also spin webs out of their butt?"

The best tribes work with each other, growing in power as each new guy hits the table. Fortunately, that's what Lorwyn brings! So we're going to start looking at each tribe from one of several perspectives:

Strategy

This is what the tribe's basic strategy is in Lorwyn, and how well that strategy will fare in multiplayer.

Versatility

People have complained about "big dumb green" for a long time—it plays creatures and attacks, and that's green's main strength. Meanwhile, blue gets flying creatures, and it counters spells, and it bounces things, and it does your laundry if you tap the mana for it.

That's not the entire truth, of course—green's also good at mana-fixing and artifact / enchantment removal—but blue does seem a little more nimble on the whole. In multiplayer, nimble is good.

So this measures how tricky the tribe is—are they a one-trick pony, with just a single route to victory, or a very clever Hans?

Recyclability

One of the key factors in any multiplayer deck is recycling. Your creatures, artifacts, and enchantments are almost certain to get killed at some point—how easy is it for this tribe to recoup its losses?

Individuality

Some tribes are more powerful on a per-card basis... and some just aren't. Take soldiers, for example. They're awesome when you get out five or six of them, but that means you had to play five or six cards from your hand (and have them remain on the table) to achieve their full power. One Wrath of God can knock you back to Square One.

So the question is, how many cards are you going to have to burn to make the tribe work properly for you? Can you be all right with just one or two critters, or do you need a dozen?

Antiquity

Lorwyn's awesome, don't get me wrong—it's one of my favorite sets in years. But those of us who've been playing for a while can comb through their binders to find some cards that might help... Well, a little more. What options do we have outside of Lorwyn?

Enough jibber-jabber. Let's look at those cards!

Tribe #1: Faeries

Strategy

Put a bunch of creatures into play at instant speed—creatures that disrupt your opponent's strategy. Then fly over for the win.

Rating: The abundance of flash in a Faerie deck is a strong Rattlesnake effect, making people less likely to target your Faeries—after all, once you get to four mana and can play Scion of Oona or Mistbind Clique to shelter your beautiful flying ladies and gents, who wants to bother? And if you can get an extra benefit out of it, like with Dreamspoiler Witches or Glen Elendra Pranksters, so much the better.

In addition, Faeries have one of the most coveted abilities in the game: that of the mighty Counterspell. Aside from changelings, Faerie Trickery will RFG 99% of all Magic spells—a nice save for the occasional spells that would wreck you. (Plus, there's the much less reliable Spellstutter Sprite.)

It's going to be a slight uphill battle for the Faeries, mainly because they're generally pretty small on their own—it's difficult to put someone away 2 points at a time. But as far as a tempo deck goes, this is probably a good shot—even if you won't have a lot of good blockers.

Versatility

When you have Sower of Temptation to steal just about any creature you feel like (particularly if Sower's under the protection of a Scion of Oona), that's strong on its own. Then throw in the Counterspell protection, the lifelink that Nectar Faerie can give, the discard of Thieving Sprite, and the vexation of Pestermite, and you have a deck that can do many things—most of them at instant speed.

Plus, since Faeries are blue-black, you have access to Nameless Inversion—a solid removal card, if not quite as good as Crib Swap.

Rating: High. But as is usual with this kind of creature base, trying to stuff all of these effects into a single deck may lead to a spread focus and eventual ruin.

Individuality

While you get a lot of bang with comes-into-play effects, individually Faeries don't do that much. You'll need at least two or three on the board to be a reasonable threat, and one of them will have to be a Scion or a Clique to go on the offense. That isn't unthinkable, but it does leave you a little more open to destruction effects than you might like.

Rating: Medium.

Recyclability

You can try something funky with Ringskipper—but generally, if they go to the graveyard, they ain't comin' back. Thankfully, you will probably be in black, but that means dipping into non-Faerie effects.

Rating: Low, but medium when you consider that black is pretty good at recursion.

Antiquity

There are a couple of solid guys for the effect. Cloud of Faeries is a classic way of playing a threat while keeping your mana open (though your opponents can still get something through in the window between when you play the Cloud and when its comes-into-play trigger resolves). Faerie Squadron, as new player Nick showed me last night, can serve as a late-game threat—and I thought it was just for Invasion Limited! Thornwind Faeries can help pick off little guys, or just finish off someone else's combat.

Moving on to more recent sets, Sprite Noble gives your Faeries a better chance of serving as surviving blockers.

Sadly, most of your old-school Faeries are green. If you're willing to discard black, you get the I-should-totally-have-flying Willow Priestess to throw down all your Faeries at instant speed (for free!), and Silkwing Scout to beef up your mana base. (But you're playing a tribe with a low curve, so the question is how much you need that effect.) Argothian Pixies, Faerie Noble, and Scryb Sprites might all serve some minor purpose.

On the plus side, if you go with green, you get the awe-inspiring power of Shelkin Brownie and Aisling Leprechaun. Take that, cards!

Rating: Medium.

Standard-Legal Hole-Fixing

So we have a tribe that can attack in the air, but is made of little weenies and won't have a lot of defense. What can we add that will help?

Well, the first thing is that you can usually count on your other friends having large men out there. Clone is a top-end spell in a Faeries deck, but it means that if your opponent manages to get out a Dread, well, you have one, too! (You might also try Body Double.)

Now, if this was a non-Standard deck, the old standard (ironically) to send people looking elsewhere during the attack phase is Propaganda—something that would play straight into your Spellstutter Sprites. But alas, there is no Propaganda into today's Standard. (Heck, I'd even settle for a Drift of Phantasms.) So what then?

Well, we could go with Damnation to control the board, but as noted, Faeries aren't strong on the rebound—in many cases, the loss of our guys would hurt us more than it hurts them. And Wall of Air is... well, it's okay in the early game, but I'd like something a little more iron-bound.

Instead, let's try turning a normal attack into a rout with a very strong multiplayer card—Sudden Spoiling! Sudden Spoiling, though black-intensive, can nerf a whole attack phase and lead to some devastating losses when your teeny Faeries find an army cut down to itty-bitty size just for them. (You might also consider Ovinize, a card that doesn't get nearly enough respect in multiplayer.)

Try something like this:

Multiplayer Faeries

(You might also consider upping the curve, throwing in some extra lands, and going with Draining Whelk as your top-end finisher. Or heck, just throw in some Rune Snags. Teferi's something to consider, but since your problem is lack of early defense and all your good folks have flash anyway, it's not going to help patch the issue.)

This deck will be very difficult to play, mainly because it's going to be hard to judge when how to control the board. When someone plays his second-turn attacker, do you Spellstutter it and risk his wrath... Or is Spellstuttering the right play, since you can't afford to have him amassing an army quicker than you?

Everything will happen at end of turn with this deck. You'll hold every play until the last possible minute. That'll make for some nailbiting games, since you have no Rattlesnake effects to wave at people... but what the heck. It could be worth it.

Tribe #2: Kithkin

Strategy

Throw out a bunch of little white creatures that help other little white creatures and swing for the win. If possible, put down Gaddock Teeg to put a hold on any funky business.

Rating: Unfortunately, the beatdown strategy in multiplayer is generally a tough row to hoe. Aggro Kithkin decks have been making some minor waves in Standard already (and may be a much bigger deal by now—I'm writing this before States), but this is one of the big differences between multiplayer of any sort and duels. Dealing 20 damage before someone raises up a suitable defense is doable, but dealing 60 damage to three separate players using nothing but speed and efficiency alone? Well, that becomes unfeasible without some strong help that verges on combo.

The Kithkin do have some nice beatdown creatures for multiplayer. Thoughtweft Trio serves nicely on both offense and defense, and Knight of Meadowgrain's lifelink can be supplemented quite well by any number of power-boosting enchantments and/or equipment. But in general, barring something tricksy like Crib Swap or an active Goldmeadow Harrier, one dragon can shut down a lot of your deck.

What this leaves us with is a deck that's probably good for three-player games, but will struggle beyond that.

Admittedly, you can fill out the top end with Giants, which work well with the Kithkin. But then it's not really a Kithkin deck, is it?

Versatility

The Kithkin of Lorwyn are pretty much all about the attack phase. Almost everything they do involves incremental boosts or disruption. This doesn't leave a lot of room for anything else.

Rating: Low. If there's any sort of combo craziness, don't expect the Kithkin to help once Gaddock Teeg goes away.

Recyclability

Barring the marginal usage of Kithkin Mourncaller, there's not really any way to fetch your Kithkin back once they die. Sometimes, drawing a lot of cards will help, but they all have to cack in the Red Zone—something you don't get to control.

Rating: Low.

Individuality

Unfortunately, the Kithkin really need at least three or four other Kithkin to be out there working with them, which means that you have to play a lot of cards for the Kithkin to matter. Yes, Gaddock Teeg helps slightly against board sweepers and the like, but then you have to expend a lot of slots on Kithkin.

Rating: Low. Kithkin need to work en masse.

Antiquity

Unfortunately, before Time Spiral there was but one Kithkin (Amrou Kithkin). The gaps have been filled a bit since then, but it's not like there's a wealth of Kithkin to choose from. Goldmeadow Lookout and Mistmeadow Skulk are solid cards for multiplayer (assuming you have enough white to pay for all the Harriers you generate), but they don't really do much outside of that.

Rating: Low. But give 'em time.

Standard-Legal Hole-Fixing

Ugh. Let's take a look at the Kithkin decks from pre-States:

Indy Watson's White Weenie

That's not a bad start, but man – you're not going to be able to pound everyone with that. Ajani Goldmane will help, but you'll swarm one or two guys and then go under once the big Dragons and stuff start popping out. You have no evasion, just brute force, and that's an issue in multiplayer.

(Though the Loxodon Warhammer, quite the nice card in a group game, will definitely help you stay in the game.)

The traditional solution is to put in top-end finishers or recovery spells, but cards like Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Ancestor's Chosen don't work well with low-end, 23-land Kithkin. What we need is more control and disruption, and a better top end.

Plus, there isn't a lot of room in this deck. It's a tight beatdown deck, so while we could try crazy things like Dust Elemental and Crovax, every slot we add is taking away other slots. So in the end, I'd change just three cards—and one of them is putting the sideboard Crib Swap in and taking Temporal Isolation out.

First off, this deck will suffer on defense, but fortunately, we have a card that actually helps most of the Kithkin in this deck. Did you notice that most of the Kithkin are Soldiers? And gosh, Mobilization is a great card for when you run out of steam, and it gives your Kithkin vigilance!

(Okay, the Thoughtweft Trio had vigilance already. But still!)

There's also another call to be made here: how much do you fear random stuff? In a duel-focused beatdown deck, four Oblivion Rings are a must since they remove blockers—the idea isn't to get rid of harmful stuff so much as it is to say, "Okay, I get through for another three damage." But in multiplayer, Oblivion Rings will serve more of a multi-purpose strategy.

Thus, there's the question of whether you still want four O-Rings to be able to handle anything that troubles you, or whether you want something that gives you evasion. And that call is up to you.

Plus, Militia's Pride isn't that great in multiplayer; 1/1 dorks are awesome, especially when you get a lot of them, but I'm not sure it's a four-of in this deck. Thus, I might try a mixture of support enchantments just to help out here—since a card like Griffin Guide can turn your guys into monsters and help with any eventual Wraths you may encounter. (Griffin Guiding up a Thoughtweft Trio is some good, come the Wrath.)

But not having played the deck, I'm loath to take out the Militia's Pride only to discover that whoops, you need it. If I'd started this article before my group game I would have proxied it up, but sadly I did not. So I'll just say that testing would be needed to discover how critical Militia's Pride is here, and if possible Griffin Guide would be a strong idea.

(It's entirely possible that the number of Goldmeadow Harrier—again, an awesome card in duels, slightly weakened in multiplayer—could be reduced to make room for more enchantments, but then once again we're watering down the focus of a beatdown deck.)

Multiplayer Kithkin

I'm not sure that's the optimal configuration, but it's slightly better. I'm always worried about a generic army in multiplayer, since a single Wrath of God can ruin your day.

Tribe #3: Giants

Strategy

Play large men. Attack. When you're done, occasionally fling them at people's heads, or destroy other smaller creatures.

Rating: Actually, "play large men" isn't a bad strategy in multiplayer, especially when you can give them all trample with Sunrise Sovereign or can fling them at people's face with Brion Stoutarm.

The issue here is, as always, that the curve for Giants starts at four mana and rapidly rises to eight. You'll have a good shot at winning the late game with threat after threat, if only you just don't get clobbered in the early game—and you're in red-white, which is not known for its amazing mana acceleration. (Though you can pull out a funny save or two with Arbiter of Knollridge.)

Giants are going to need some help to be functional. That doesn't make 'em bad, but rather a tribe in need of a little love. Where's Hagrid when you need him?

Versatility

Not a whole lot here; sure, Thundercloud Shaman can potentially clear the path if you have enough Giants out, and Favor of the Mighty is a risky gambit that can sometimes pay off, but in general you'll be sending your Giants into the Red Zone. (Or using Crush Underfoot to simulate the Red Zone.)

Rating: Low.

Recyclability

Fugeddaboutit. These boys fill graves so big, even the Gravediggers don't wanna touch 'em.

Rating: Nonexistent.

Individuality

Ah, here's the good news: every Giant is a threat on its own. The worst you get is a 3/3, and some of the high-end Giants are just nutso. A single Giant will be a threat without any other help.

Rating: High.

Antiquity

Fortunately, Giants have been with Magic since Day One, so we have a wide variety to choose from.

Bloodfire Colossus is one of the better multiplayer creatures, even if it's expensive—anyone under 6 life is not going to mess with you unless they have one heck of a split second spell. Hammerfist Giant is also a warning: if you can take the 4 damage, your Giants almost certainly can.

Another near must-have is Oathsworn Giant, which allows you to send your dudes out to smash face without having to worry about that pesky return hit. Sunhome Enforcer allows you to gain some life (and may I suggest combining that with Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion)?

Adding a little bit of creature removal, Hammerheim Deadeye clears those pesky fliers out of the way, while the Desolation Giant stays in theme and adds a much-needed Wrath of God effect to clear the way for your groundpounders. And let us not forget Jareth, Leonine Titan, who can be an awesome defender, taking out anything on the ground (even absorbing Darksteel Colossus hits without blinking).

But none of that really deals with the problem of early-game Giants. And if you're looking for defense, well... You're out of luck. The number of cheap Giants in Magic are slim.

Interestingly enough, your two best options come from Coldsnap. Jötun Grunt is the obvious choice, but what you need here in a Giants deck is early defense. And unless you have a way of guaranteeing that your opponents will have at least two cards in their graveyard by the time turn 3 rolls about, he's going to be one-turn blocker. That's not good. Jötun Owl Keeper requires some maintenance, but when he dies you have some chump blockers to keep you alive until you can get Fee, Fi, and Fo online.

The one giant you do not want? Marble Titan.

Rating: Medium.

Standard-Legal Hole-Fixing

The biggest problem with Giants is that you have no early game. Let's look at a skeleton of a deck:

4 Bloodfire Colossus
4 Brion Stoutarm
2 Hamletback Goliath
2 Thundercloud Shaman
4 Sunrise Sovereign

I'd like to say that we should include a four-of Thundercloud Shaman, but honestly we won't have enough Giants to make it work. It will most likely be a tiny Pyroclasm.

But hey! Pyroclasm! There's a card you'll need to play early and often. Which may be our goal: clear the board repeatedly until you can generate enough mana for your Giant-led assault. Oh, you'll need a lot of mana, but let's try it out:

The mana base is a little janky—but Spinerock Knoll can pop out a much-needed Giant if someone else gets smacked (it's "an opponent," not "an opponent that you hurt"). Forbidding Watchtower can hurt you if it comes into play tapped when you're trying to get to eight mana, but it also provides mid-game defense if you don't draw a Wrath or a Molten Disaster. Flagstones, I was torn on; they're a slight bulwark against Boom // Busts, but they could be taken out easily enough.

The big problem with this deck is that you are running twenty-seven lands, and will be prone to mana-flood or -screw. But that's the Giant tribe for ya; win big or go home.

Well, that's enough for today. More tribes next week! And if you think there's some awesome card that breaks open one of these cards, let me know!


* I feel like I should insert an obligatory sports reference to The Tribe collapsing in the finals of the American League Championships, since I live in Cleveland. Then I remember that I don't care about baseball. Even though I was watching the games at a bar, and it was painful.

** I think it's like 2-5 in casual games, mainly on the strength of Nemata, Grove Guardian and Essence Warden. But for no apparent reason, I keep dragging it out whenever I feel like playing something silly.

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