The world’s best drafters are very flexible early in drafts. Because of their willingness to put off color choices as long as possible, they are more likely to end up in the right colors, cooperate with their neighbors, and have a strong deck. Lorwyn turns this conventional wisdom on its head by including powerful linear tribal cards and fringe cards that can be leveraged to create very powerful decks in certain circumstances. To get the most power out of these cards, it can be necessary to “move in” on a card or strategy by drafting specifically to leverage them. Doing this can be risky, because some of the cards that are good for your deck may be bad in general, and if you don’t finish out your deck you’ll be left with a pile of bad cards. However, when it works you will reap the rewards in the form of a very powerful deck. Lorwyn presents lots of opportunities to move in on cards or strategies while drafting and knowing exactly when to do it is essential for a player who wants to succeed.
In the early stages of a draft, you need to choose a direction for your deck. Most obviously, you have to choose what colors to draft. Given that, you will have to decide what direction you will take within those colors. Once you have a direction, you’ll be able to evaluate the cards in your color as you draft in terms of your deck’s direction to decide what picks to make. Getting in the right colors is very important to a successful draft deck, and that usually means not fighting with your neighbors. Because of this, good drafters tend to be very flexible early in a draft. Going through Time Spiral block Drafting with Rich columns on Star City will show you that Rich usually keeps most of his very early picks in a single color, which allows him to feel out what second color is open. He sometimes waits until as far as a few picks into pack two to decide a second color. Even if his first few picks end up being wasted, his flexibility lets him end up in two colors that give him a reasonable deck by the end of pack three.
Another way to handle a draft is to “move in” on one strategy early in the draft. In most formats, there are goofy strategies that leverage niche cards to do powerful things. Drafting this kind of deck means that you will depend on some cards that the rest of the table won’t be able to use, and some cards that are generally powerful may not be good in your deck. If you are going to do this, you want to know as soon as possible what direction your deck is going so that you can change your card valuations appropriately. If you don’t commit to such a strategy early on, you may not get enough of its cards to make it work. This is the exact opposite incentive from what someone drafting a normal deck feels. A special strategy needs enough of its special cards to fill out a deck, but a normal deck just needs enough cards of the right color.
Lorwyn is different from recent limited formats because the incentives to move in on a fringe strategy are much higher than normal. The most obvious reason for this is that it is a tribal set. A player who knows very little about the set but who pays attention to creature types can just take, say, every goblin they see and get a passable deck that has nice interactions in it. The goblins were all meant to be played together, so there is some value to having a lot of goblins. On a second level, Lorwyn has some possibilities buried in its commons that are a little more subtle than a single-minded focus on one tribe. You can draft a five-color green deck with vivid lands, Fertile Grounds, and Elvish Harbingers and splash whatever random good cards you get from any color. You can draft a red-green elf-giant deck that abuses Elvish Handservant, a red-blue goblin-faerie deck that gets great mileage out of Boggart Sprite-Chaser, or perhaps a multicolor elemental deck that uses Smokebraider to fix and accelerate mana. All of these strategies can lead to some very powerful decks that “normal” drafting would never give you. Some of these are tribe-focused, but they still must be drafted differently from a normal deck that happens to use that tribe’s cards. Also, because you are using cards that the rest of the table may not care about, you can pick up your key cards much later than you would be able to get good cards for a normal deck.
Although there are rewards to moving in, there are also risks. To be rewarded appropriately for making a fringe strategy work, you need enough of your enablers and enough of the cards they enable. If you draft a five color green deck and then don’t get any good off-color cards, your mana fixing picks have gone to waste. If you draft a red-blue Smokebraider but only have one Smokebraider to go with your expensive multicolored elementals, your deck will be slow and may have bad mana. You need to know your plan early enough in the draft so that you get enough cards to make it work. This is why moving in early is better than moving in later if you are going to move in at all. A final trap that can happen is that there simply may not be enough of the cards you need opened, someone else can be drafting the same deck as you, or both. If any of these things happen to you, you could end up without a deck.
On the surface, it looks like the rewards to moving in are so high in Lorwyn that it is impossible to compete if you have a “normal” deck. Happily, this is not the case. It appears that Wizards worked really hard to balance the tribal cards in a way that rewards people for moving in without shutting out people who don’t. If you don’t know what you should be doing to execute a cunning plan, just take good cards like normal and you’ll be alright. However, you won’t have the possibility of getting a truly exceptional deck.
Because of this, mastering Lorwyn limited means knowing when to move in. You may be forced to move in by cards you open or are passed. For example, Imperious Perfect and Summon the School are both cards that give you a nice push toward drafting every tribe-aligned card you can get your hands on. To do this correctly,you need to know what cards should prompt you to move in on a strategy. Ideally, you should have a mental list of every card in the set that you’ll move in for. If you aren’t going to do that, you should at least have some idea about what is worth warping your deck for and what isn’t. For example, Wizened Cenn and Mad Auntie aren’t worth moving in for; your opponent can just kill them with any random removal spell and your creatures are all back to normal. You’ll obviously take them if you already have some cards of the appropriate tribe, but don’t go taking every kithkin or goblin just because you have their lord. On the other hand, cards like Thundercloud Giant, Imperious Perfect, or Summon the School are worth it because they can win games on their own. If you’re not sure if a card is a single-handed game-winner, think about what playing the card would feel like in normal situations. If it seems overwhelmingly powerful, go ahead and move in on it.
Also, an expert Lorwyn drafter should be able to determine when conditions are right to move in on something like the Smokebraider or Elvish Handservant deck. Pay attention to what cards you are passing early in the draft. If you see a lot of the right commons early and you think they will come back, then go for it. If you’re right and no one is getting in your way, you may have a monster; if you’re wrong, you’ll have learned something but you won’t have a deck. On a side note, this kind of strategy is very nice for PTQ top eight drafts where a 3-0 is a success but anything less is a failure. You’ll have a reduced chance of getting 2-1 or 1-2 records, but you’ll increase your chances of a 3-0 or 0-3. This means that you win the PTQ more often.
Knowing when to move in is crucial for someone who wants to draft Lorwyn well. Every set contains cards that entire decks can be built around and offers the possibility of drafting strategies that use undervalued cards to do powerful things. However, Lorwyn presents more opportunities to move in and be rewarded for it than any recent block. An intricate knowledge of what cards and strategies are worth going out of the way for will help you make the most of your draft.