Hidden Warriors

Posted in NEWS on February 1, 2008

By Devin Low

Warriors are anything but subtle. They have four main ways of announcing their presence: roaring, smashing, hurling axes, and killing people. Morningtide's Warrior enablers show exactly that in-your-face aggression, from Bramblewood Paragon to Obsidian Battle-Axe to Vengeful Firebrand and more. But remembering which creatures are Warriors and which are not actually is a little subtle. After all, Lorwyn was designed to focus attention exclusively on "race" creature types like Kithkin and Merfolk while glossing over "class" creature types like Warrior. Time Spiral and Ravnica blocks also have very little "class matters," making it even easier to forget who is a Warrior and who isn't. You might not even realize Stingscourger is a warrior until he jumps out and whales on you with that awesome man'o'war'o'nine'tails. So in honor of Warrior Week, I'd like to shine some light on the Hidden Warriors of Magic, whose creature types have been hiding in plain sight.

The Hidden Warrior Lord

Let's start with the reasons to build warrior decks in the first place. Many cards in Morningtide can be used to match any tribal deck you want, including Door of Destinies, Roar of the Crowd, and others. But what rewards do warrior decks get all to themselves? Combat is definitely the focus, with power-pumping, haste, and trample galore. In Morningtide alone:

Lovisa Coldeyes There's also a key hidden Warrior in standard that's very easy to miss, even though she's a potent hidden Warrior lord: Lovisa Coldeyes gives all other Warriors, Berserkers, and Barbarians +2/+2 and haste. Wait, all Warriors?

During Coldsnap development we debated back and forth whether Lovisa Coldeyes should help all players' Warriors, Berserkers, and Barbarians (like Goblin King helps all players' Goblins) or whether she should just help your own. I was on the latter side. I argued that it was just plain annoying for your own lords to help your opponent's creatures, as well as incomprehensible in flavor. But other developers on the Coldsnap team maintained that in the Age of Ice Age, all creature type lords had helped both players. Since we were already doing tons of Ice Age mechanics in the set, we should be true to Ice Age with the lords too. Field Marshal was also part of the debate. If we were going to finish the Goblin King, Lord of Atlantis, Elvish Champion, Lord of the Undead super-cycle with Field Marshal, the other side argued, we had better make Field Marshal's text box line up with the other four.

As the debate heated up, the key moment arrived when I rhetorically demanded of the other developers "What kind of lord inspires the enemies she's fighting to kill her??" I saw a gleam in someone's eye, and knew that I had made a fatal mistake. Another developer exclaimed triumphantly: "The Barbarian Berserker lord!" Checkmate. I could not recover from that crushing verbal coup de grace. I lost the debate, and Lovisa and Field Marshal help all your opponents' guys too.

I gotta admit, I still believe I was right, and I'm glad I got the chance to revisit the issue by making the Lorwyn race lords like Imperious Perfect and Merrow Reejerey help just your own Elves and Merfolk.

When we see an opportunity for a change that doesn't match the past, but will improve Magic for the long term (like making race lords affect just your own creatures), I firmly believe we have to take it, even if it leads to uncomfortable transitions like having Goblin King not matching a theoretical "Your other soldier creatures get +1/+1 and first strike" version of Field Marshal when they're both in Tenth Edition. It's worthwhile to make it through those uncomfortable transitions in the short term to keep making Magic better for the long term. Because if we keep doing things all the old ways to match all our old mediocre precedents, we just end up building additional mediocre precedents that make it even harder to break away in the future.

Switching from Alpha rules (with their "interrupts" and insane special damage prevention timing steps) to the cleaner, unified Sixth Edition rules was a very uncomfortable transition, but in retrospect it was very clearly worth it.

Jeska_Warrior_Adept Transitioning from the old days of Elvish Warrior being "Creature – Elf" in Onslaught to the modern "Creature – Elf Warrior" race/class model of the Elvish Warrior in Ninth Edition and Morningtide required a wide-ranging Creature Type Update (and an update to the update) that can be an uncomfortable transition. But every time you play Elvish Warrior with a Bramblewood Paragon out, or any other Warriors-matters card for the rest of time, I think you'll find it's totally worth it. Before the creature type update, if you had an Obsidian Battle-Axe out and played Jeska, Warrior Adept, you couldn't equip the Axe to her for free because despite being called "Jeska, Warrior Adept," she wasn't "officially" a Warrior. Now that the creature type update has gone through, Jeska, Warrior Adept is officially a Warrior in the game, and she can pick up the Obsidian Battle-Axe and go to 5/2 haste first strike town.

Tribal Warriors

A whopping five of Lorwyn's eight race tribes include a lot more Warriors than you might expect. If you start picking out the Warriors in a particular race, you can often make a deck that benefits from both race tribal synergies and warrior tribal synergies at the same time.

Warrior Treefolk

For example, these creatures you may think of as Treefolk are actually Treefolk Warriors:

Battlewand Oak
Dauntless Dourbark
Timber Protector
Cloudcrown Oak
Oakgnarl Warrior
Oaken Brawler
Sentry Oak
Unstoppable Ash
Indomitable Ancients
Ambassador Oak

Battlewand Oak, Dauntless Dourbark, and Timber Protector already form a tribal core, and now Obsidian Battle-Axe and friends can join the party.

Warrior Elementals

Likewise, many of the humanoid Elementals are not just Elementals, but actually Elemental Warriors:

Flamekin Bladewhirl
Nova Chaser
Vengeful Firebrand
Brighthearth Banneret
Ceaseless Searblades
Flamekin Brawler
Flaring Flame-Kin
Inner-Flame Igniter
Seething Pathblazer
Petrified Wood-Kin
Root-Kin Ally

Again, Flamekin Bladewhirl and Nova Chaser focus on Elemental synergy while supporting Warrior-matters, Vengeful Firebrand focuses on Warrior synergy while supporting Elemental-matters, and Brighthearth Banneret brings out both.

Warrior Elves

Boosted by the creature type update, Elves boast a large array of powerful warriors, including many Elf legends from the modern Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, Rhys the Exiled, and Radha, Heir to Keld, through Ravnica's awesomely fun Tolsimir Wolfblood, back to the old-school Eladamri, Lord of Leaves and even Marhault Elsdragon. All of these Elves are also Elf Warriors:

Imperious Perfect Marhault Elsdragon
Wren’s Run Vanquisher Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
Bramblewood Paragon Nath’s Elite
Wren’s Run Packmaster Norwood Warrior
Allosaurus Rider Radha, Heir to Keld
Elvish Vanguard Rhys the Exiled
Lys Alana Huntmaster Tel-Jilad Chosen
Winnower Patrol Tel-Jilad Outrider
Elvish Warrior Tolsimir Wolfblood
Civic Wayfinder Viridian Scout
Eladamri, Lord of Leaves Viridian Zealot
Elvish Handservant Warren-Scourge Elf
Elvish Skysweeper Wurmskin Forger

Think about this Standard-legal start: Turn one: Llanowar Elves. Turn two: Obsidian Battle-Axe, pitch two green cards, play an Allosaurus Rider, attack on turn two with a 5/4 haste that's going to keep growing from there. Now that's some Elf-and-Warrior synergy.

Warrior Giants

Obsidian Battle-Axe Among the Treefolk, Elementals, and Elves, we've already seen many warriors-who-are-giant, but there are also a lot of Giant Warriors. Besides benefitting from Giant enablers and Warrior enablers, the recurring element here is being totally insane with everyone's favorite Obsidian Battle-Axe. Brion Stoutarm attacks on turn four as a 6/5 with lifelink. Next turn, you can play another Giant Warrior, pass the Axe to that guy, swing with him for 7ish damage, then use Brion Stoutarm to hurl that 7-power Giant, dealing another 7 damage and gaining 7 life. If you play Cloudgoat Ranger and equip the axe, his kithkin buddies can send him to the air, letting you attack with a 7/4 Flying Haste creature that gave you three 1/1s to boot.

Stonehewer Giant fetches the Axe, or if you already have it, attacks with haste as a 6/5... who then pulls a second Equipment out of his hat and pops it on. Hearthcage Giant and Borderland Behemoth are expensive unless you have Stinkdrinker Daredevil(s), but they can easily attack with haste with the Axe for 13 or 14 damage. Blind-Spot Giant becomes a 6/4 haste for 2R, while Countryside Crusher is a 5/4 haste that grows and improves your draws for 1RR. Sunrise Sovereign provides an Axe-like pumping bonus to all of his Giant Warrior friends in addition to picking up the Axe himself. Lovisa Coldeyes (that old Battle-Axe...) does a great imitation of a Battle-Axe by giving any of these Giant Warriors +2/+2 and haste, providing backup redundancy in case you don't draw the Equipment.

Hammerfist Giant is especially awesome with Obsidian Battle-Axe. He comes out, grabs the Axe for free, then hastily pounds the ground to deal 4 damage to each creature without flying. This ability is way better when you can spring it without your opponents getting a turn to see it coming. And best of all, the additional toughness from the Axe means Hammerfist Giant lives through his own activation instead of dying.

Gatherer reveals this year's recipient of the "Who knew??" award for Giant Warriors. Recent research has uncovered that in Magic's storylines, Legends legend Bartel Runeaxe is actually a Giant Warrior himself! While he can't be targeted by Auras, Bartel Runeaxe can still pick up (of course!) the latest Runeaxe and show you why he's a legend by attacking at 8/6 haste vigilance and still being available to block. Don't try to Pacify this guy.

Here are all the Giant Warriors:

Brion Stoutarm
Countryside Crusher
Stonehewer Giant
Cloudgoat Ranger
Blind-Spot Giant
Sunrise Sovereign
Bartel Runeaxe
Hearthcage Giant
Hamletback Goliath
Hammerfist Giant
Hammerheim Deadeye
Borderland Behemoth
Boldwyr Intimidator
Axegrinder Giant
Boldwyr Heavyweights
Lairwatch Giant
Lowland Oaf
Lunk Errant

Warrior Goblins

If goblins like anything as much as explosions, rocks, and fire, it's war. Stingscourger and Mogg War Marshal can attack with Lovisa Coldeyes or Obsidian Battle-Axe before paying echo. Bloodshot Trainee uses Lovisa or the Battle-Axe to go immediately to 4 power and hastily start bombing creatures out. Here is a swarm of Goblins who are also Warriors, led by explosive creature machine Mogg War Marshal and the notoriously vicious Goblin Piledriver.

Goblin Piledriver Goblin Balloon Brigade
Mogg War Marshal Goblin Brawler
Stingscourger Goblin Brigand
Zo-Zu the Punisher Goblin Chariot
Goblin Cohort Goblin Elite Infantry
Bloodshot Trainee Goblin Furrier
Facevaulter Goblin General
Goblin Marshal Goblin Piker
Mudbutton Clanger Goblin Raider
Mudbutton Torchrunner Goblin Rimerunner
Adder-Staff Boggart Goblin Sky Raider
Akki Avalanchers Goblin Skycutter
Akki Lavarunner Goblin Spelunkers
Akki Raider Goblins of the Flarg
Akki Underling Krark-Clan Grunt
Bog Hoodlums Mogg Sentry
Boggart Mob Quill-Slinger Boggart
Boggart Sprite-Chaser War-Torch Goblin
Crazed Goblin

Warrior Goat Snakes

Of course, there are some Treefolk Elemental Elf Giant Goblin Warriors I left off of these lists. Changeling Berserker, Taurean Mauler, Woodland Changeling, Chameleon Colossus, Avian Changeling, Mirror Entity, Mutavault and many of their friends can find a place in many Warrior decks, including those that combine Warrior synergies with racial ones.

A Zombie and a Centaur Walk into a Deck...

Warriors are much more than a subset of existing race tribes. You can also combine all the most powerful Warriors from each of those tribes into a single deck. Then add powerful Warriors from Standard sets outside Lorwyn's tribes. Some of the coolest include:

Keldon Marauders
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
Mirri, Cat Warrior
Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
Nacatl War-Pride
Boreal Centaur
Ghitu Encampment

Giving Korlash, Stonebrow, Jedit or Nacatl War-Pride haste and increased size with Warrior enablers is awesome. With Nacatl War-Pride, warrior power pumpers like Bramblewood Paragon or Lovisa Coldeyes pump all the token copies too! Since Stonebrow, Jedit, and Nacatl War-Pride’s abilities trigger when they attack, getting them to attack the turn they come out is especially sweet. And giving Jedit , the War-Pride, Korlash, or Keldon Marauders trample is even better.

Ghitu Encampment and its cycle almost got out the door for Tenth Edition without being updated from Urza's Legacy to gain a creature type when they were activated. Fortunately, editors and developers noticed in time how dumb it would be if an activated Faerie Conclave did not count as a Faerie for Scion of Oona and so on, and we added a type to each one.

Faerie Conclave
Ghitu Encampment
Forbidding Watchtower

Warriors of Old

I have to give a final shout-out to some cool Warrior interactions outside Standard and outside the Lorwyn races. Sosuke, Son of Seshiro is a classic Warrior lord from Kamigawa. Mons Johnson rightly noted that the abilities on Sosuke seem backwards: shouldn't the poison ability come from being a snake and the power-pumping come from being a warrior, not the other way around? The thing is, Sachi, Daughter of Seshiro really wanted to give her TAP: Add GG to your mana pool" ability to Shamans, not Snakes. And Sosuke and Sachi really wanted to mirror each other. There was no perfect solution to this little SAT puzzle, and Sosuke ended up taking a little flavor hit. The Legends legend Hazezon Tamar is a warrior who can make 7 1/1 (Sand) Warrior creature tokens. And Rally the Horde can rally up lots of 1/1 warriors eager to do your bidding.

Last Week's Poll

Have you ever drafted something wacky in Magic, outside of the normal Set A-Set B-Set C block draft model?
Yes 3198 63.0%
No 1878 37.0%
Total 5076 100.0%

Cool—about two thirds have busted out the wacky drafts. A lot of play groups have house rules or weird formats they play, and I'm all for that. The point of Magic is that you can make it whatever game you want it to be. Usually people do that through building decks, but house rules, weird formats, and in-group banned & restricted lists are fun ways to customize it too.