Can You Dig It?

Posted in Feature on January 31, 2008

By Chris Millar

Can you count, suckers? I don't mess around much with the past (sorry, Sosuke, Son of Seshiro), but I mess around plenty with the future. And the future is the Warriors, if you can count. First, we start with a miracle. We've got the Ceaseless Searblades sitting next to the Lys Alana Huntmasters. We've got the Facevaulters right by the Cloudgoat Rangers. We've got 218 representatives from 26 tribal races in this game (27 if you count the Zombies), and we've got a truce. Nobody is wasting nobody. And that is a miracle. And miracles is the way things ought to be.

Welcome once again to Warrior Week!

Class of the Titans

Well, Warrior is a class of the Changeling Titans, at least. Despite the relative abundance of Warrior "lords" (Before Morningtide, there was Sosuke, Son of Seshiro, Lovisa Coldeyes, and Boldwyr Intimidator), the Warrior creature type has been pretty invisible to me. With Morningtide now on the scene (at least in the sense that all the cards are known), I have had to basically relearn a lot of old cards. It's pretty easy to guess which Elves are Druids (the make mana or fetch lands, typically), but which Elves are Shamans and which ones are Warriors? Frankly, I wasn't sure, so I've been performing a lot of database queries lately. I guess I have a lot of time on my hands.

Pretty much any green or red creature can be Warrior, it seems. There are some in the other three colours, but green and red sport the lion's share even if none of them are lions (though there are some cats). "Warrior" has figured in the names of a number of very basic creatures—vanilla monsters—which have a variety of flavours: Elvish Warrior, Gorilla Warrior, Minotaur Warrior, Lizard Warrior, Viashino Warrior (Oh, the diversity of Magic!), Ogre Warrior, and Panther Warrior. These plain Janes have been joined by a couple recent additions to the group. First, there's Trained Armodon's vanilla 3/3 buddy, Nessian Courser (which sounds more like something that would break down in the Enterprise's engineering room than a Centaur Warrior), and then there's Axegrinder Giant (if only the name Craw Giant wasn't already taken).

Muraganda Petroglyphs
Put this rules-text-free fighting force together and you've got the basis for, um... uh...

A Muraganda Petroglyphs deck? Yes! Sure, what I will generously dub "beating down" with "Hill Giants" and "Hurloon Minotaurs" is fun on its own, but it gets even more fun when each member of your pitiful band is given Giant Strength. Bigger creatures = more fun. At least, that's what the front page of the latest Timmy Weekly tells me. Of course, one problem no-frill beasties have is punching through opposing defences. Without flying, trample, shadow, horsemanship, or the appropriate form of landwalk, your only hope is to clear some blockers out of the way with removal or induce chump-blocking. The other solution I came up with is to add Garruk Wildspeaker. Now, Garruk's synergy with Muraganda Petroglyphs is a little inconsistent. Everything's hunky-dory when he's making 5/5 Beast tokens, but as soon as you fire off his "ultimate" and give your guys +3/+3 and trample, your vanilla dudes will lose all the benefits they were getting from the Petroglyphs. At that point, you should be close to winning anyway.

Thrilla in Vanilla

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And In This Corner...

Boldwyr Heavyweights

Boldwyr Heavyweights! Like many undercosted fatties before it, such as Eater of Days and Sky Swallower, Boldwyr Heavyweights fall pretty squarely in the Johnny camp. Not only do they boast uncommonly high stats for a four-mana creature, but they clearly have a peculiar, albeit nonabstract, diet. All this is not to say that Spike won't take the portly pair out for a night on the town... literally. The only thing they (and, frankly, we) have to worry about is bumping into dangerous riff-raff like Shriekmaw, Riftwing Cloudskate, or *gasp* Sower of Temptation. The last thing you want is to waste a whole turn's mana giving your opponent an evasive beater or, worse, ten-power worth of evasive and semi-evasive beaters. Heck, even if your opponent fetches Indomitable Ancients you'll be in a little bit of a pickle.

Luckily, this is the world of Magic, so for those of us playing in a nonspecific metagame, there are things we can do to get more out of our Heavyweights and things to make our opponents get less. During my brief look at Maralen of the Mornsonglast week, I paired the Elf Wizard with some recent cards that restrict the searching of libraries. Shadow of Doubt prevents searching altogether, but only for a turn, while Aven Mindcensor limits your opponent's library searches to the top four cards. A number of people, including pullarius1 in last week's House of Cards forums, mentioned that either of these cards would also work well with Boldwyr Heavyweights. Shadow of Doubt kills the drawback entirely, but makes your Giant cost an awkward $$. At that point, you'd almost be better off playing a different creature. On the other hand, it might be worth trying if you're playing multiplayer, as a backup plan in a deck where you could get greedy with Blatant Thievery or cause a lot of chaos with Confusion in the Ranks. (I think I have an idea for an EDH deck). With the Aven in play, you might still lose your Giant to one of the aforementioned troublemakers, but the odds, unlike your 8/8, are much, much slimmer. As with Eater of Days, Sky Swallower, and company, you can Stifle or Trickbind the Heavyweights' comes-into-play ability and neutralize the drawback that way. I'm going to go with the Mindcensor, though, because it allows you to play the Heavyweight's much earlier.

Aven Mindcensor
Now, when you have an 8/8 creature, the second last thing you want to do is have it sit around on defense for a turn while your opponent decides which piece of removal to use on it (with the last thing you want being having it killed or bounced or stolen due to its own ability). The good news for lovers of cheap, fat Warriors is that there are at least two ways to give them haste: Lovisa Coldeyes, who also supports wayward Barbarians and Berserkers, and one of the auto-equipping tribal equipments from Morningtide, Obsidian Battle-Axe. The Battle-Axe is easier on the mana curve, since it can come out a turn before the Heavyweights, but Lovisa hastens and pumps all of your Warriors at once and is more useful with the two Warrior lands, Ghitu Encampment and Mutavault. Both haste-makers give your Heavyweights a power of ten and makes them lethal in two attacks. Besides haste, you can get some damage in right away by flinging your Heavyweights with Brion Stoutarm, who is himself a Giant Warrior.

Dead and Stingscourger (another Warrior) can clear away pre-existing blockers or, if you don't have a Mindcensor, bounce the creature your opponent puts into play because of your Heavyweights. As I alluded to before, another thing you can do is simply steal the creature they find. Since we're in white and red, that means Evangelize or something like Threaten, Grab the Reins, Bringer of the Red Dawn, or possibly Goatnapper.

The last semi-major piece to the puzzle is a card I've been meaning to pair with Lovisa Coldeyes since Coldsnap came out: Rally the Horde. A sort of Random Warrior Generator, this is a potentially great follow-up to Ms. Coldeyes. Its inclusion is the reason the deck has a relatively low land count and a relatively high artifact-mana count. Ultimately, the deck probably has a little too much going on, but at least it shows you that there are multiple paths to go down.

Chub Alarm

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The Virtue of Paragons

Of all the new class "lords," Bramblewood Paragon is probably my favourite. For one, it's green and an Elf. That's a great place to start if you want to get into my good books—and not, like Bog Hoodlums, as a bookmark. For two, it's got a reasonable body that pumps up all subsequent (and, generally, larger) Warriors, and on top of that it gives all of these pumped creatures trample. Compare it to, say, Cytospawn Shambler, a card whose effect I often want but whose price I don't. They do roughly the same thing, but the Paragon is cheaper to play, gives trample for free, and can be played at a much more desirable point in the mana curve. Besides, did I mention that it's an Elf?

Bramblewood Paragon
Since Bramblewood Paragon essentially has two separate (albeit entwined) abilities, I'm going to use it to build two different decks, each focusing a little more on one of the abilities. As you can tell from reading the card (always a good thing to do), Bramblewood Paragon makes all of your Warriors come into play with an additional +1/+1 counter. Obviously, this means that if more Warriors come into play, you'll get more counters overall. As with most "lords," to get the most out of this effect, you want to make many small guys quickly rather than make large guys slowly. An easy way to do this is to make tokens, and since all of the Lorwyn block Elf tokens are Warriors, this leads me to believe that we can build a nice little Elf deck here. Lys Alana Huntmaster, Hunting Triad, and Imperious Perfect are the token-makers I'm going to use, but Gilt-Leaf Ambush and Elvish Promenade are okay too.

A little birdie (okay, it was editor Kelly Digges) alerted me to the exciting interaction between Imperious Perfect and Obsidian Battle-Axe. I'm already familiar with the joys of making hasty Elf tokens (courtesy of Ashling's Prerogative), but the Battle-Axe is better in just about every way (at least with Imperious Perfect). Imagine you play the Axe on turn three and follow it up with another land and a Perfect on turn four. The Axe will equip itself to the Perfect, making the Perfect a 4/3 with haste. This allows you to make a token right away, and when it comes into play, you can move the Axe one square over and make the token a 4/3 with haste. Not a bad deal, especially considering you can do this during each subsequent turn as well. Besides the aforementioned Warriors, Wren's Run Vanquisher and Elvish Warrior seem like pretty obvious inclusions. If you like attacking, (Treefolk or) Warrior champion Unstoppable Ash gives you a reason to keep doing so, since your guys are unlikely to be defeated in combat. A single Nath's Elite rounds out the creature suite, since it seems better than usual with Obsidian Battle-Axe and it can just destroy some decks. It also has the potential to come into play with its own +1/+1, which can be handy in the event that you play a Bramblewood Paragon later in the game. The reinforce ability of both Hunting Triad and Earthbrawn, as well as Llanowar Reborn's graft ability, perform a similar function, helping to ensure that your guys will almost always have trample.

One thing I like about the reinforce cards is that they can be used to permanently pump up your manlands (say, Mutavault) to make sure that you have a serious threat that can't be killed with sorcery-speed removal. When it's not doing its Coat of Arms-type thing, Door of Destinies provides you with another way to make your Mutavaults hit hard.

Grow a Paragon

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Outside of Standard, the card that is probably the best fit for this deck is Elvish Vanguard, who was recently changed into an Elf Warrior. With all the +1/+1 counters flying around (and even the charge counters), you might look at some of the cards I talked about when I previewed Simic Guildmage (like Doubling Season).

The next deck is a little more fatty-centric and aims to take advantage of Bramblewood Paragon's trample-granting. How? Well, first, with creatures that really want to trample, like Chameleon Colossus and Hamletback Goliath, and, second, with Stonebrow, Krosan Hero. Stonebrow is pretty good on his own, great with haste, and devastating when your whole team has trample. Like the previous deck, this one has a number of ways to get +1/+1 counters on creatures. Some come with them (Adder-Staff Boggart, every creature as long as you have a Paragon in play), some accumulate them (Winnower Patrol, Taurean Mauler, and Hamletback Goliath), and some can give them to others (Brighthearth Banneret).


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Until next time, make lovviors, not warriors.

Chris Millar

Don’t miss your chance to attend a Morningtide Launch Party near you this weekend. Special "Midnight Madness" locations in North America will begin selling Morningtide at 12:01 a.m. on the set’s release date: this Friday, February 1, and events will continue throughout the weekend at participating stores. Besides getting your first chance to buy packs of Morningtide, you’ll also be able to play in Sealed Deck events and win cool prizes. And don’t forget, Morningtide is legal in Constructed on its release date!

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