Welcome to October, 2007.  First generation iPhones are in consumers’ hands,  the Spurs are the NBA champions, the nation mourns the Virginia Tech Massacre, and Halo 3 has broken all records in entertainment history. Time Spiral block left Dominaria in worse shape than Yawgmoth’s Invasion did (Dominaria has yet to be seen again, barring a referential card in a core set). Time Spiral’s bounty of mechanics has led Wizards to reevaluate complexity, particularly at low rarities (which, in a few years, will result in New World Order). Lorwyn block, an expansion set in an idyllic and playful fantasy world based on folklore from the British Isles, has just been released.

As for yours truly, I’m living in Osaka, Japan with a host family and studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University. I haven’t bought a booster pack since 2000, and Prophecy was a poor set to remember the game by. One crisp day in November, I find myself in a hobby shop in Den Den Town. For fun, I purchase a Japanese booster and English tournament pack of Lorwyn. Inside I find gorgeous artwork, memories of old, and one thoroughly confusing card.

Liliana Vess

This was inconceivable. The planeswalkers of my youth, like Urza and Teferi, were gods in mortal form. Players were planeswalkers, not cards! Well, The Mending of Time Spiral had depowered planeswalkers, making them powerful mortals, rather than nigh-omnipotent gods (and much more relatable characters).

The Lorwyn five were the first and only planeswalker cards printed in the four set Lorwyn-Shadowmoor block. By now, planeswalkers are a (generally) beloved and essential component of the game, but then, they were new, and change is always hard to swallow. They also had nothing to do with Lorwyn block; the set was about a fairy tale plane devoid of humans and here were four conspicuous humans and a leonin that had nothing to do with the plot or themes.

Idyllic Tutor

Lorwyn was a tribal set, a theme last explored in Onslaught block. The set strongly encouraged and rewarded players for drafting a race. Each race was primary in one color and supported in at least one secondary color. White had kithkin (secondary in green). Blue had faeries (secondary in black) and merfolk (secondary in white). Black had goblins (secondary in red). Red had elementals/flamekin (secondary in all colors). Green had Elves (secondary in black) and Treefolk (secondary in black and white). Changeling creatures, like Woodland Changeling (based on Mistform Ultimus), helped fill gaps in any tribal interaction. Lorwyn also introduced the mechanics Clash (a Timmy/Spike mechanic that allowed players a free Scry 1) and Champion (which played into the tribal nature of Lorwyn).

Personally, I find Lorwyn the most challenging Limited format. It has all of the complexity of Time Spiral, except it’s hidden in creatures’ type lines. You need to be aware of Merfolk and Faeries for Silvergill Douser, giants for Kithkin Greatheart, and goblins and elementals for Caterwauling Boggart. Morningtide makes this far more complicated by making creature’s classes relevant in addition to their races. Off-hand, the artwork and names clearly convey that these three cards are merfolk, kithkin, and goblin, respectively, but what classes are they? Can you remember every creature’s type in the middle of a combat? When the battlefield is cluttered? Can you remember that every changeling is every creature type for every card that cares? Well, I set out to do just that in a LLM draft I hosted with seven friends at Twenty Sided.

Drowner of Secrets

The draft started out well, with a powerful (and expensive) Thoughtseize. Black, sadly, wasn’t open, as Sean two seats to my right was in faeries and two players were in goblins. Merfolk, however, was definitely open, as I received two Harpoon Snipers. By then the end of the draft, we had a reasonable variety of archetypes:

Zach—WU Merfolk

Dana—WR Giants/Kithkin (with 2x Thundercloud Shaman)

Jess—Mono Green Elves (and a bunch of treefolk in the board)

Brook-BR Goblins

Frazer—WB Kithkin/removal/Rights of Brighthearth

Joe—BR Goblins

Sean—UB Faeries

Kadar—Rw Elementals

My merfolk deck didn’t quite come together. While I wasn’t competing with anyone else for merfolk (and only one player for blue cards), there simply weren’t any Drowner of Secrets, Silvergill Dousers (Sean had the only one), Amoeboid Changelings, Merrow Reejereys, or even Streambed Aquitects to reward my choice. The cards just weren’t there. My creatures weren’t good at attacking, my removal was lousy, and I had too few mill cards to win reliably. In hindsight, I should have played the third Mothdust Changeling to bolster my few ‘tap-matters’ cards, but I don’t think that I stood much of a chance, considering my matchups. Here’s what I built:

Lorwyn block draft

Creatures (18)
Mothdust Changeling
Stonybrook Angler
Ink Dissolver
Grimoire Thief
Deeptread Merrow
Judge of Currents
Harpoon Sniper
Paperfin Rascal
Burrenton Bombardier
Avian Changeling
Stonybrook Schoolmaster
Kinsbaile Balloonist
Waterspout Weavers

Spells (5)
Merrow Commerce
Wings of Velis Vel
Sage’s Dousing
Glimmerdust Nap
Fathom Trawl
Lands (17)
Vivid Meadow
Vivid Creek

Sideboard (20)
Aquitect’s Will
Mothdust Changeling
Inkfathom Divers
Waterspout Weavers
Wings of Velis Vel
Ethereal Whiskergill
Scattering Stroke
Stomping Slabs
Hillcomber Giant
Winnower Patrol
Hunt Down
Elvish Handservant
Kithkin Daggerdare
Lammastide Weave

In round one, I was paired against fellow Hipster, Jess, and she demonstrated mastery of the format. After the match, I was aghast when she showed me a pair of Cloudcrown Oaks and a trio of Battlewand Oaks that were sitting in her sideboard; she had three Bramblewood Paragons to power them up! THREE! Instead, she played four Elvish Eulogist and a Heritage Druid. That’s five 1/1s for one instead of five powerful and synergistic three and four drops.

Turns out, Kithkin Mourncaller turned her Eulogists into draw spells, Wren’s Run Packmaster massively upgraded her little elves, and Heritage Druid powered out a turn four Vigor (aka one of the most unbeatable bombs in the format). I never assembled my meager mill package and was crushed under a mountain of deathtouching wolves and an elemental incarnation.

Round two against Brook was quite simple: each game, he played Wort, Boggart Auntie and then cast Tarfire every turn; a potent combo and one which my deck had no means of disrupting.

Round three was against my old high school friend, Joe (whom I first knew as “the ovinomancer kid,” back when we were thirteen). We rarely get to see each other, much less play Magic, and it was a joy to get to do both. Unfortunately for Joe, my mill package was finally online, and Grimoire Thief, Mothdust Changeling, and Merrow Commerce quickly gobbled up his library.

Boggart Shenanigans

Though I did “poorly” in the draft (this is my first time not 3-0ing a Flashback Draft), I had an absolute blast playing a relatively unfamiliar format with friends old and new. I was proud of Sean for besting Jess’ insane elves deck in the finals with his insane faeries deck (in pack two, I passed him a Scion of Oona, just after Kadar passed him a Mistbind Clique) and delighted to see everyone enjoying themselves. The best part of Magic, for this writer, are the friendships, stories, and trips that Magic provides, and this past weekend’s Lorwyn draft was an excellent reminder of that.

Stay tuned, when in a few weeks, we flashback to my favorite expansion: Tempest. Until then, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash

Join the livestream!: twitch.tv/ZennithGP

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food bordering on the unhealthy.

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