Building_on_a_Budget

An initial look at evolving a Lorwyn theme deck and a poll to determine what subthemes to evolve.

BoaB Unplugged – Kithkin Militia!

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The letter W!elcome to Building on a Budget: Unplugged! This week, we take a step back from Magic Online, and take a look at the Kithkin Militia theme deck. From the lows to the lowers (get it? Kithkin are short! Ha ha ha!), I'll deconstruct the lil' guys who can, and see what makes their deck tick. Then, since we'll have plenty of lead time, you, the reader, will vote how we'll proceed in evolving this deck once Lorwyn goes live online—which will, our inside sources suggest, coincide nicely with the upcoming Kithkin Week!

Kithkin are a tribe filled with a lot of potential. They have a lot of great weenie creatures, and many of the creatures help build upon their other creatures symbiotically. The Kithkin Militia theme deck showcases a lot of the strengths of the Kithkin tribe. Let's take a look at the contents of the deck card-by-card.

The Kithkin

Cenn's Heir. Not the largest Kithkin, and not the Kithkin that works best alone. Kithkin generally work better when you have other Kithkin, so this guy conceivably can get big. However, I'd be worried about running too many of Cenn's Heir, because conceivably the Heir would force you to overcommit, leaving you at the mercy of mass removal. If there's one enemy of the Kithkin, it's mass removal.

Goldmeadow Dodger. One of the weaker cards in the deck. There is actually a better choice than this if you're looking to evade high-power creatures, but it's in another set. We'll talk about adding cards from other sets later on. In general, you want your one-drops to be able to get in for early damage, or to do something besides attacking. The Dodger's ability isn't relevant until later in the game, in which case you might as well have a larger threat!

Goldmeadow Harrier. An extremely good creature, and one that is well-represented in this theme deck. Whipcorder was played quite a bit in White Weenie decks, and Goldmeadow Harrier comes down a turn earlier with much the same effect. Allows your other Kithkin to keep on swinging, and keeps your opponent's best creature from attacking.

Goldmeadow Stalwart. When Savannah Lions were rotated out of Standard, White Weenie players everywhere cried foul. Then, Wizards of the Coast printed, essentially Isamaru, Hound of Konda as a nonlegendary creature, with the drawback that you need to play more Kithkin to get him down on turn one. Given how many good Kithkin there are for a White Weenie deck, that's a negligible drawback. We'll probably be going up to four of these no matter how we evolve this deck, as long as we keep the weenie-aggro theme.

Please note that each color has a creature with the "reveal a creatures from a similar tribe or pay more mana" mechanic. Four of the creatures are all of comparable power and toughness—Silvergill Adept is a 2/1 cantrip for two, Flamekin Bladewhirl is a 2/1 for one, Squeaking Pie Sneak is a 2/2 with fear for two. The fifth—Wren's Run Vanquisher—is a 3/3 with deathtouch for two. Because of this, anyone playing a tribal deck will be able to stand toe-to-toe by playing four copies of their card from this cycle. The advantage that the Kithkin have over Silvergill Adept, Flamekin Bladewhirl, and Squeaking Pie Sneak is that Kithkin can make other Kithkin larger, allowing you to break through for damage rather than trade.

Kinsbaile Balloonist. While giving two creatures evasion (the Balloonist plus one other creature) is not a bad trick for a Limited tournament, this guy won't quite make it in Constructed. When was the last time you put one of these in a deck: Aven Augur, Aven Cloudchaser, Aven Fisher, Fledgling Mawcor, Flickering Spirit, Furnace Whelp, Knight of Sursi, or Mana Skimmer? A 2/2 flyer for four needs to have a game-altering effect, such as with Shimian Specter, Voice of All, or Celestial Crusader (granting a Lobotomy effect, a tough-to-kill flyer, and a Crusade effect, respectively). Otherwise, the creature is too vulnerable and attacks for too little given your mana and time investment on the fourth turn.

Kithkin Greatheart. A 3/2 with first strike for two mana is ridiculously good. The question: are we playing with Giants? The answer is maybe—if we are, we probably need to branch off into red. There are a lot of good options for red giants to complement Kithkin in both this and other Standard-legal sets. Remember—Shapeshifters with the changeling mechanic count as Kithkin, Giants, and whatever other tribes you want!

Kithkin Harbinger. This seems like it costs too much, since it is more mana-intensive than most of the Kithkin you are searching for. Maybe this is good for getting one of the more-expensive changelings, but in general a beatdown deck wants redundancy. You want to reliably have a curve (one drop, two drop, removal spell, more drops), and not necessarily play a silver-bullet strategy where you have a lot of one-ofs with ways to tutor them. This will probably end up getting cut.

Knight of Meadowgrain. This is good in or out of a Kithkin deck. Comparable to some of the great White Weenie two-drops of the past, including White Knight, Silver Knight, and Knight of the Holy Nimbus. The ability to enable a 4-life swing a turn (your opponent down 2, you up 2) is amazing! Think of these guys as Highway Robbers that come down on turn two, rob every turn, and have first strike as a bonus. A keeper!

Thoughtweft Trio. I can definitely see playing a couple of copies of Thoughtweft Trio in a Kithkin deck, because it is enormous for the mana cost. Four mana isn't too high for the top-end of a weenie deck, but we don't probably want to pack the deck with too many copies of this card. For one, if you don't have another Kithkin in play, it's a dead draw. Second, if you don't have multiple Kithkin in play, drawing past your first is a dead draw. Third, you have to temporarily kill one of your own creatures (or enchantments, if you're playing a Kithkin enchantment) in order to get Thoughtweft Trio on the board, stifling your momentum slightly.

With that said, it's good for four reasons: first strike, vigilance, unlimited blocking, and 5/5. All of these abilities work great together (you can attack and block, first strike creatures to death, block any number of creatures, and soak up / deal a significant amount of damage), making Thoughtweft Trio a great option for both offense and defense. Plus, if the Trio dies (especially to something like Wrath of God), you get your original creature back. Now that Faith's Fetters and Pillory of the Sleepless are out of Standard, it's more likely that your opponent will remove Thoughtweft Trio from play (Terror, Oblivion Ring) rather than neutralize it on the board.

Wizened Cenn. It's so nice that the current crop of lords (creatures which make creatures of a similar tribe larger) only affect your creatures. That means that in the Kithkin mirror match, the person who draws more Wizened Cenns has a major advantage. I can see this guy being key in a curve—first-turn Goldmeadow Stalwart, second-turn Wizened Cenn (swing for 3), third-turn Glorious Anthem (swing for 7), fourth-turn Celestial Crusader (swing for 9), putting your opponent at 1 life if you're on the play. Take that, Wrath of God!

Brigid, Hero of Kinsbaile. This is more of a trick for Limited play than for Constructed. The problem with Brigid is that she gives your opponent the option to attack or block. With Goldmeadow Harrier, you are the one actively deciding if your opponent's creature is attacking or blocking. With Brigid, your opponent chooses who comes in, and you are the one reacting. Do they have a Giant Growth? Are their creatures large enough to survive 2 points of damage, even after being blocked by a 2/3 first-striker? Maybe—and given some of the other choices for the top-end of the curve of this deck (especially if we go the Giants route), I don't see Brigid making the cut.

Shapeshifters

Avian Changeling. The standard 2/2 flying creature. For all intents and purpose, consider this to be a Wild Griffin that counts as a Kithkin, a Giant, and a Rebel (more on this later!). Not the best, but good if you need to pad the early giant count for your Kithkin Greatheart.

Changeling Hero. I'm undecided whether this guy is good or not. He costs a mana more than Thoughtweft Trio, is smaller, and doesn't have as many relevant combat abilities—in essence, it's a Durkwood Boars with a Spirit Link attached. I'm sure this guy would be good if left unchecked, but what 4/4 creature wouldn't be? Compare this to Knight of Meadowgrain—the Kithkin version costs three less mana, is half the size (for under half the cost), and has first strike thrown in.

Giants

Cloudgoat Ranger. Wow, is this guy good! I have a feeling that Cloudgoat Ranger is going to be a staple of budget players for years to come. Five mana for a 3/3 creature isn't fantastic, but that's not what you're getting when you invest in Cloudgoat Ranger—you're getting an army of creatures for the cost of one!

Compare this to something like Scatter the Seeds. Scatter was very popular with casual players, and gave you three 1/1 Saprolings (as an instant, and with convoke) for the same mana cost. Cloudgoat Ranger gives up convoke and flash, but instead gives you a 3/3 body to go with your trio of 1/1 guys. When combined with any power-boosting ability (Wizened Cenn, Glorious Anthem), the size of your army created by Cloudgoat Ranger just goes up. If you need to immediately recover from a Wrath of God or Pyroclasm or Damnation, Cloudgoat Ranger will throw six power of creature on the board all at once, and will make it so that four creatures need to be dealt with rather than just one.

Even more than that, the tribal interactions between Giants and Kithkin are significant. Cloudgoat Ranger gives you three Kithkin Soldiers, which is important if you are focusing on Kithkin (which we most certainly are!), or Soldiers (a-ha! The fourth subtheme finally shows its head). Even if we aren't going to focus on Giants as the central theme of our Kithkin evolution, I can definitely argue that Cloudgoat Ranger should be included in a Kithkin-centric deck.

Combat Tricks and Creature Enhancers

Battle Mastery. This might be good if we go with more of a Giants theme, because Giants tend to be larger than Kithkin. However, Kithkin themselves don't seem like they'd benefit much from an aura which grants double strike. Most are 2/2 creatures (or smaller), and Auras open you up to all sorts of card disadvantage (your opponent using one removal spell to kill both your creature and your enchantment). It seems like a better choice would either be equipment or Griffin Guide (which also gives an effective extra 2 damage but additionally boosts toughness by 2, gives evasion, and helps against removal).

Pollen Lullaby. Tangle is a card that I really liked from back in the day. Often, if you had a mirror match with two aggressive decks, Tangle would spell the difference between defeat and victory. Unfortunately, you have a win a clash to keep the creatures tapped down and the majority of cards in this deck are going to be one, two, or three mana. If you need to stop larger creatures, chances are that your opponent's creatures cost more than yours in general, and this won't trigger. Dawn Charm might be better if you want a one-turn fog effect—or this might just be out of place entirely in this sort of aggressive deck.

Runed Stalactite. Now this is good. It's cheap to play and easily equipped, and you'll be happy to turn your Kithkin into Giants, Soldiers, or Rebels, depending on the style of deck you're playing. Does this stack up well against other available equipment, including Loxodon Warhammer? Depending on your build, yes, it might!

Shields of Velis Vel. Combat tricks like this just aren't usually terrific. One of your Kithkin might get +1/+2 and first strike, and one of your Giants might get +1/+2 thanks to Wizened Cenn. For sheer reliability though, you're probably better off with Surge of Thoughtweft, below.

Surge of Thoughtweft. Like Shields of Velis Vel, except you get an extra power pump, and often it'll be a cantrip. I'm not sure this is better than a permanent +1/+1 effect (Wizened Cenn, Celestial Crusader, Glorious Anthem), but I'm definitely willing to test it out before dismissing it!

Removal

Crib Swap. I'm a big fan of Crib Swap... in other decks. This deck wants to just outright remove blockers so it can keep swinging with smallisher creatures. Crib Swap leaves the opponent with a blocking creature—and very few of the Kithkin naturally have evasion. That one-turn road bump can spell the difference between winning and losing. I'd play Crib Swap in a control deck where I need to make a large threat into a more manageable one, but aggro decks have better options for removal.

Oblivion Ring. Such as Oblivion Ring. With few enchantment removing spells being main-decked (goodbye Mortify!), Oblivion Ring is the heir apparent to Faith's Fetters, except at a mana cheaper and without the life gain. Still, that one mana makes a huge difference to a weenie deck, and I expect to see a ton of play out of Oblivion Ring in most decks that run white over the next two years. Oblivion Ring is also the card that I was waiting to use in The Joke's On You, which I'll be revisiting within the next few weeks.

Themes to Develop

Kithkin are definitely oriented to be the beatdown deck, and I see four ways to evolve this precon: As a straight Kithkin deck, as a Soldier Deck, as a Kithkin / Giants hybrid, and as a Rebels deck. If we focus on Giants, this deck will likely shift to white-red. If we focus on Rebels, white-black. Both Soldiers and a straight Kithkin theme are most likely mono-white. Keep in mind, just because we're focusing on one doesn't mean we can't include cards from another theme (for instance, having Cloudgoat Ranger in a primarily Kithkin or Soldiers deck), but most of these sub-themes would be minor at best. Let's explore the possibilities of cards from outside of the Kithkin Militia theme deck that might help evolve the deck in a certain direction.

THE KITHKIN THEME

Focusing solely on Kithkin as a tribe (without any other focus) would mean maximizing the cards that interact solely with Kithkin: Thoughtweft Trio, Wizened Cenn, Cenn's Heir, and the such.

Kithkin to Consider

Burrenton Forge-Tender. (Lorwyn uncommon) Another one-drop Kithkin, and one that can frustrate red decks to no end.

Mirror Entity. (Lorwyn rare) A way to make all of your Kithkin larger, plus it counts as a Kithkin itself.

Mistmeadow Skulk. (Future Sight uncommon). Much better than Goldmeadow Dodger at avoiding larger creatures, and it's got some protection on top of that for blocking purposes, plus lifelink.


THE SOLDIER THEME

Many of the Kithkin in Lorwyn also happen to be Soldiers. This includes Cenn's Heir, Goldmeadow Harrier, Goldmeadow Stalwart, Kithkin Greatheart, Thoughtweft Trio, and the Kithkin created by Cloudgoat Ranger. Changelings also count towards this theme, since they are Soldiers and Kithkin both. For a soldier deck, we would probably focus on cards that interact with both Kithkin and Soldiers. It's possible to also build a deck that focuses on seeing just how large of a creature we can make by piling Celestial Crusader, Field Marshal, Glorious Anthem, and Wizened Cenn in the same deck!

Soldiers to Consider

Aven Cloudchaser. (Tenth Edition common) Enchantment removal if you really need enchantment removal in a creature.

Aven Riftwatcher. (Planar Chaos common) Also good for the Rebel deck, below. This helps you win the damage race (4 points in the air, 4 points of life gain, one turn of early blocking).

Benalish Commander. (Planar Chaos rare) Puts soldiers into play each turn, but is a bit expensive to do so. If you're going for a swarm strategy, mass removal be damned, Benalish Commander has the potential to be huge. If your other soldiers die, so does he. Probably won't make a cut, but it is worth remembering that this guy exists.

Even the Odds. (Future Sight uncommon) If you're willing to wait for your opponent to get ahead of you on the creature count, this is a way to dump multiple soldiers onto the board at once. Might not be great in conjunction with the early-drop Kithkin though.

Field Marshal. (Coldsnap and Tenth Edition rare) This is the Soldier lord, much like Wizened Cenn is the Kithkin lord. Seeing as how many Kithkins are Soldiers, is it worth it to run eight lords that are also creatures? Maybe!

Icatian Javelineers. (Time Spiral timeshifted) A great one-drop Soldier, since it gives white an early removal option.

Jötun Grunt. (Coldsnap uncommon) A big ol' Soldier who also happens to be a big ol' Giant. I don't know how easily you'll be able to pay his upkeep cost, but it's definitely a boon that white has a huge early-drop Giant that is also a Soldier.

Kinsbaile Skirmisher. (Lorwyn common) A small combat boost to your other creatures, but might be enough to push a creature through against other 2/2 or 3/3 creatures.

Loyal Sentry. (Tenth Edition rare) Blocks and kills anything, but do you really want to be playing defense?

Militia's Pride. (Lorwyn rare) This puts additional Kithkin Soldiers into play tapped and attacking. If you've got even one creature and one power/toughness boosting effect, this can get out of control really quickly.

Mobilization. (Tenth Edition rare) A way to pump out a lot of Soldiers (and, as a side effect, give Soldiers vigilance), but it takes twelve mana to make three Soldiers (three for Mobilization, and nine for three activations). For five mana, you get Cloudgoat Ranger (3/3) plus the same three Soldiers. Can you tell that I really, really like Cloudgoat Ranger?

Revered Dead. (Planar Chaos common) Regenerating 1/1 Soldiers!

Squire. (Time Spiral timeshifted) Yes, it's a Soldier. No, I'm still not going to play it in this deck. Come on, don't I have better options in the two-drop slot? Don't vote for Soldiers thinking I'll play Squire—I won't.

No, really.

Stormfront Riders. (Planar Chaos uncommon) A 4/3 flying Soldier that can make other soldiers each turn. A bit pricy to get started, but it can essentially work the same as champion a creature—you return two creatures to your hand, Champion the Riders into play, and get two 1/1s for your effort. It isn't the EXACT same as champion, but if you're willing to play champion creatures, you might want to consider the Riders.

THE GIANTS THEME

With the Giants theme, you're going to be playing the largest and smallest white races in Lorwyn alongside one another. These aren't no Faeries or Treefolk—this is Kithkin and Giant time! The intersection of this theme is Cloudgoat Ranger and Kithkin Greatheart. There are also quite a few red and white giants worth playing in various Standard-legal sets!

Giants to Consider

Blindspot Giant. (Lorwyn common) A huge body for the cost, and works really well with changelings.

Brion Stoutarm. (Lorwyn rare) This will probably be the most expensive card on any of the Kithkin Militia lists, but I expect it to settle in the 3-5 ticket range on Magic Online, making it usable in some quantities for a budget deck. This guy is big (4/4 for four), tosses your other guys to the head, and provides the life swing of Loxodon Hierarch in a single blow. What's not to like?

Changeling Berserker. (Lorwyn uncommon) A hasted Juggernaut, and one that counts as both a Kithkin and a Giant. This might be worth considering, because it swings hard and early.

Desolation Giant. (Time Spiral timeshifted) A Wrath of God, and a budget one to boot! This, along with Brion Stoutarm, would be primary reasons to want to go with a Giant / Kithkin theme. This is very much a budget card right now, and you can pick them up for less than a ticket.

Ivory Giant. (Time Spiral uncommon) Suspend it on turn one, and watch it clear the board of blockers on turn six! It's not the biggest body, but it will allow you to get in a pretty big attack, especially if you need more giants to help your Kithkin or to enable a Blindspot Giant.

Jötun Grunt. (Coldsnap uncommon) The same as in the Soldier deck, except it really helps enable Blindspot Giant early (since all you need to do is control a giant to attack with the Blind-Spotted one).

Jötun Owl Keeper. (Coldsnap Uncommon): Another of the earliest-to-play Giants, and one that you can probably keep around for a few turns. As a bonus, you get more creatures once it dies.

Pact of the Titan. (Future Sight rare) Much like Fomori Nomad, except it's a surprise blocker / attacker, and if you don't pay for it the next turn, you lose.

Thundercloud Shaman. (Lorwyn uncommon) A reasonable body for the cost, and one that potentially could wreck either your team, or your opponent's team.

THE REBEL THEME

The intersection of Rebels and Kithkin comes from Time Spiral, where Amrou Scout and Amrou Seekers are both Kithkin and Rebels. Other than this, this is actually the least-supported theme in Lorwyn for Kithkin (there are no Kithkin Rebels in Lorwyn, other than changelings). I would probably least want to evolve this deck, since it would basically use few-to-no Lorwyn cards outside of changelings, and the odd Kithkin effect or two. Still, I've listed the Rebels from other sets below, in case people really want to see a Kithkin / Rebel deck. This would be a black-white deck, as there are many, many good black rebels right now.

Rebels to Consider

Amrou Scout (Time Spiral common)
Amrou Seekers (Time Spiral common)
Aven Riftwatcher (Planar Chaos common)
Ballista Squad (Tenth Edition uncommon)
Big Game Hunter (Planar Chaos uncommon)
Blade of the Sixth Pride (Future Sight common)
Blightspeaker (Planar Chaos common)
Bound in Silence (Future Sight uncommon)
Children of Korlis (Time Spiral common)
Cho-Manno, Revolutionary (Tenth Edition rare)
Conspiracy (Time Spiral timeshifted – an honorary Rebel)
Deepcavern Imp (Future Sight uncommon)
Defiant Vanguard (Time Spiral timeshifted)
Dunerider Outlaw (Planar Chaos uncommon)
Errant Doomsayers (Time Spiral common)
Knight of the Holy Nimbus (Time Spiral uncommon)
Outrider en-Kor (Time Spiral uncommon)
Ramosian Revivalist (Future Sight uncommon)
Rathi Trapper (Planar Chaos common)
Saltfield Recluse (Planar Chaos common)
Samite Censer-Bearer (Future Sight common)
Steadfast Guard (Tenth Edition common)
Zealot il-Vec (Time Spiral common)

Now the voting is up to you! For next week's article, I'm going to do an interlude to discuss the good budget cards in Lorwyn, and why you should gravitate towards them for your deckbuilding pleasure! The week after that, I'll return to this theme deck (since Lorwyn will be available online), and I'll evolve the deck in the direction as voted in the poll in this very article. Let me know your thoughts in the forums—I'd love to hear the reasons why you want straight Kithkin, Kithkin Soldiers, Giants and Kithkins, or Kithkin Rebels! Until next week, may all your Kithkin enter the red zone without getting blocked!

 How should Ben evolve the Kithkin Militia Deck?  
Straight Kithkin, with no sub-theme.
Kithkin and Soldiers. Let's see how big those guys can get!
Kithkin and Giants. Giants like helping their little friends!
Kithkin and Rebels. This would reallllly gut the Kithkin Theme deck though!

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