Magic History: Lorwyn

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Lorwyn.

Wizards of the Coast's popular and long-standing collectible card game, Magic: The Gathering, has been out since 1993.  That stated, it's nice to look back at older sets to reminisce and see just how much the game has changed over the years.

In this video, we look back at Lorwyn, the first set in Magic: The Gathering's Lowryn-Shadowmoor mega block.

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

In October of 2007, the 43rd expansion in Magic: The Gathering history, Lorwyn, came out.

The celtic-inspired set kicked off a two-set mini-block that acts as act one of the overall Lorwyn/Shadowmoor storyline and introduces not just a new plane, but a new card type as well to the game of Magic.

The story can be enjoyed by reading the Lorwyn novel by Cory J. Herndon and Scott McGough.  And, as usual, here is a quick summary of the goings-on:

It’s an idyllic day in the Gilt Leaf Wood as an elven wedding party from the tribe of Mornsong is traveling to meet the bride’s betrothed for the very first time.  A member of the elven’s second-highest caste, an elf known as Maralen, is escorting her more-prominent bride-to-be when she is asked to retrieve some moonglove (a poison to which elves are immune).  As Maralen is scouting for some, she notices that the wedding party’s singing had suddenly stopped.

Concerned, she races back to rejoin her traveling party and, upon arrival, finds everybody being smothered by sentient vines.  She finds and attempts to free the bride, but finds herself succumbing to the vines’ hold.

Bloodied and beaten, the elf is near death as she hears faeries whispering into her ear…

Ashling, a flamekin, is thinking about the missing elven bridal party as she travels down the very same forest road on which they were lost.  A pilgrim (that is, one who is in search of greater elementals), she has garnished a reputation across Lorwyn as being a very good messenger.

She is on her way to the kithkin stronghold of Kinsbaile, but to get there she must take an enchanted ferry across the Wanderwine River.  Many of the kithkin onboard fear that the water magic yielded by the river guide, a merfolk names Sygg, won’t hold up to the flamekin’s fire, Sygg and his first mate have Ashling concealed as to put any concerns to rest amongst the passengers.

Unfortunately, the ferry is attacked by an arbomander (a giant amphibian) and, despite the precaution, the ferry’s magic fades as Syyg is knocked out cold.  Thankfully, a group of faeries were also aboard.

This Vendellion Clique is able to save the firekin from falling into the water, but decide not to go back to save the drowning kithkin for fear of being eaten by the arbomander.  Luckily, Sygg regains consciousness and is able to pull the imperiled kithkin to safety.

Back in the Gilt Leaf forest, an elven daen, or pack leader, names Rhys is leading a hunting party after a group of goblin-like creatures known as boggarts.  His party had many new recruits and he wanted to make sure hunts could go smoothly with them.

These boggarts, however, weren’t like most of their kind.  Rather, they were all a bit mad.

The elves waited to strike with their bows drawn, awaiting Rhys’ signal.  One of the new additions, however, shot his arrow much too early.  The boggarts, now aware of the hunting party’s existence, erupt into a panicked chaos.  Rhys curses and knocks a special arrow enfused with yew magic – a magic largely unknown to most elves – and shot it into the crowd, killing many of the enraged boggarts and scattering the rest.

Immediately afterwards, Rhys admonishes his inexperienced party members before executing his backup plan – two giants he had hired as extra muscle – to finish the job.  Problem is, Rhys didn’t have the authority to hire giants from his superiors.  And it’s an action that could carry repercussions for the daen in the future.

Back across the Wanderwine River, Ashling arrives in Kinsbaile.  Taking notice of the flamekin’s presence, the stronghold’s cenn (or mayor), and Gaddock Teeg, an abnormally tall and slender kithkin of importance, were conferring with a red yew, or treefolk, named Colfenor (who was the last of his type).  They discussed possibly sending the flamekin to find his protégé.  After all, Ash is known for being a great messenger.

Teeg raised some concerns about the plan, but Colfenor (who is not accustomed to having his viewed questioned) dismissed them.  The pair meet with Ashling before introducing her to Brigid Baeli, Hero of Kinsbaile, who is to escort the flamekin as she seeks out the yew’s protégé.

In the wings is the Vendellion Clique whom had saved the flamekin from the river.  The faerie trio eavesdrop on the meetings, telepathically sharing information amongst one another until they feel they’ve gathered all of the intelligence they need before using a faerie circle to divulge what they have learned to their Mother of All, Oona, Queen of the Fae.

Back in the forest, Rhys and his second in command exchange words about the former’s use of yew magic and the hiring of the two giants to assist the hunting party.  Afterwards, the elven daen confronts the elven youth who had fired the errant arrow that sent the boggarts amok.  Rhys had plans to take mercy on the boy, but as he is doing so, the daen’s superior, Taercenn Nath, arrives and immediately lays into him for the very same things the daen’s second in command had complained about, telling Rhys it shows weakness in him.  Nath then takes a sword to the elven youth’s face, slaying him as a repercussion for his errant arrow, before relieving Rhys command of his pack and instructing him to get rid of the giants he had hired. 

Rhys locates the two giants and informs them that their deal is done, but the giants refuse payment, stating that there are still a few boggarts left to deal with before they can be satisfied their work is complete.  Knowing that this would look very poorly on him, Rhys arranges a new deal by promising to gather stories and share those with Rosheen Meanderer, the giants’ long-missing sister.  An accord met, the giants depart to await Rhys at Kinsbaile for the festival of sharing stories.

Afterwards, Nath sends Rhys to scout an area of the forest thought to be overrun with these mad boggarts.  What Rhys discovered, though, is that not only where the boggarts there not enraged, they were, in fact, gathered for a festival.  He relays this information to Nath, who decides to attack anyway, as doing so would rid their forest of a lesser, shameful life form.

Initially, the elves have the upper hand, then something changed.  The boggarts’ demeanor turned fanatic and the elven hunting party found the tide turn against them.  Running out of arrows, Rhys used his forbidden yew magic to turn simple blades of grass into ammunition, but the odds were increasing stacking against the elves.  That’s when Rhys calls out for help from his mentor, the red yew Colfenor.  The result was a poisonous blast that killed nearly everything in the forest save for only a few, including Rhys himself, his former second-in-command, Gryffid, and Nath.

Rhys awoke in what looked like the middle of a wasteland.  Shortly after his coming to, he is approached by an elvish woman names Maralen of the Mornsong tribe.  It’s now that he discovers that his horns had been blown off in the forest-destroying blast, marking him as an eyeblight (an undesirable in the eyes of the Gilt Leaf elves).  Maralen consoles him, telling him the Mornsong don’t treat eyeblights the same way the Gilt Leaf tribes do.

Just as Rhys was beginning to feel a bit better about the situation, however, an elemental shows up (no doubt due to his devastating act in the forest) and Rhys convinces Maralen that it’s best that they depart or face the consequences.

Upon leaving the scene, the pair is approached by a flamekin a kithkin, and a trio of faeries who were tagging along.  He finds that this flamekin, one known as Ashling, carries a message for him from none other than his former mentor, Colfenor, and the group set off for Kinsbaile.

Upon arriving in the kithkin stronghold, Rhys is reunited with his yew master.  Meeting in private, the red yew gives the elf a seed and tasks him with planting it in the sacred treefolk grove near the Murmuring Bosk as to ensure his yew line will not die out and, in exchange, will answer any questions the elf has upon his return, if able.

Meanwhile, back in the forest, Nath resolves to hunt down and kill Rhys, marking him as a kin-killer for the massive loss of life as a result of his actions during their losing effort against the boggarts.  To do so, he puts into rank a party of vinebred – zombie warriors controlled by vines that course through their bodies – and sends them towards Kinsbaile to seek out their target. 

Rhys rendezvous with Ashling, Maralen, and the rest of their party and informs them of the task Colfenor has assigned him.  The party then departs from the town, only to meet Brion and Kiel – the two giants Rhys had hired previously – outside its gates.  After a bit of a conversation and some bickering (including how Rhys has yet to deliver any stories to their sister),  Maralen steps in and calms things down by promising that the best messenger in the land (the flamekin, Ashling) will ultimately deliver stories to their sister, but that they still needed to gather a few more first.

That’s when poison-tipped arrows began to fly in the party’s direction.

Ashling takes notice and responds with a wave of flame that burns the arrows out of the sky.  Unfortunately, the move took a lot of effort and she was unable to do the same against the next volley.  Brion cupped Maralen in his giant hands to protect her, but he and his brother took the brunt of the attack, the poison beginning to take hold.

Nath, meanwhile, moves in onto Kinsbaile, announcing to the town that he won’t hurt anyone so long as they don’t interfere with the Gilt Leaf agenda.  As the elven commander meets with Colfenor and the town’s Cenn, the merfolk, Sygg, ferries Rhys’ party down the river and away from the town on his floating barge.

He takes the group to the Dark Tributaries, so called because of the dark, deep, and mostly unknown waters there.  Maralen sleeps, wounded from their recent ordeal, and the giants are in a daze of sorts from the effects of the poisoned arrows.  In the quiet, Rhys notices a rhythmic tapping.  Pretty soon, the entire party falls asleep – the clique of faries whom have been uninvited guests this whole time having cast a light sleeping spell on them all.

As the party sleeps, the faeries dig through their dreams in search of more juicy nuggets to share with their queen.  They find Rhys and Ashling to be open books, but that the Kithkin seems to be hiding a secret.  While in Maralen’s head, the faeries hear a voice – Maralen’s voice.  She calls them “little bugs,” saying that their spying attempt is a serious offense that she couldn’t overlook.

After a little back-and-forth, the faeries note that the Mornsong elf was eager to fight.  A spell is cast, and the clique take Maralen to Oona, their queen and mother of all.

The remaining party then awaken to discover Maralen missing and quickly deduce it was the faeries’ doing as they, too, are now gone.  Rhys vows to go after her just as soon as he has planted the red yew seed for Colfenor.

In Glen Elendra, the main realm of Lorwyn ’s faeries, the Vendellion Clique arrive with Maralen in tow.  The Mornsong elf bows before the Great Mother of the faeries, saying that she is but a stranger and knows not what she has gotten herself into.

Oona welcomes the foursome with open, loving arms.

Meanwhile, her former traveling companions approach the Murmuring Bosk – a grove that serves as a parliament of sorts for the plane’s entire community of treefolk.  Rhys had been there before, but is aghast to find that the entire area has been leveled – destroyed by some force.

Despite the devastation, the elf plants Colfenor’s seed as instructed.

A following morning, Rhys comes to the shore of the Bosk where he discovers his Kithkin companion, Brigid, wounded and frantic.  She tells the elf that Sygg is dead and the flamekin was the one who killed him.  Apparently, she had asked him to leave Rhys behind and ferry her after some elemental she was chasing and, when he refused, she killed him.

The Kithkin continued, saying that, afterwards, she had thrown the flamekin off into the water, dousing her flame and that if Rhys wanted Ashling to face justice for her crime, he has maybe six hours to do so before her flame returns.

But Rhys, being a cunning elf, sensed that the Kithkin was lying.  Still, he let her finish her story, allowing things to play out.  It’s then that Sygg emerges from the water with a flameless Ashling on his back.  Rhys is then surprised with the sight of Brigid knocking an arrow and taking aim at the merfolk, demanding that the elf mend her arm and surrender to her the flamekin.  Seeing little choice in the matter, he agrees.  Soon, the Kithkin flies away rather unnaturally, bound for Kinsbaile, the extinguished Ashling with her, and curses the Gilt Leaf as she departs.

Shortly thereafter, Maralen rejoins the group along with the three faeries who had spirited her away to begin with.  The Mornsong elf tries to play off her disappearance, but Rhys is having none of it.  Maralen then confesses that she and the clique had ventured here and there and met with the faerie’s Great Mother, to whom she had bargained her dreamstuff.

Elsewhere, Kinsbaile was in chaos.  Gaddock Teeg confers with Colfenor, assuring the treefolk that the flamekin will be brought back in time – the red yew aware of Brigid’s betrayal to her traveling companions.

Rhys and his party, meanwhile, are en route for the Kithkin town, their travel being hastened by some 20 faeries whom had been called upon to help with their traveling speed.  Upon arrival, however, most of the faeries were wiped out and the party fell to the ground.

Rhys awakens and sees Maralen and a near-death Ashling propped up against Colfenor’s trunk.  Taercenn Nath, who is obviously in control of the situation, challenges Rhys to duel to the death.  Rhys sends Maralen and the faerie clique to leave him be, and the two elves have at one another.

Away from the main event, the Mornsong elf and her faerie companions encounter Rhys’ former second-in-command, Gryffid, and his contingent of elven warriors.  She instructs her faerie friends to stand back.  Then, with a clap of her hands, an odd smoke appears, choking the elves as they begin to drop their weapons.  With the simple command of “go away,” all of the elves are suddenly gone, as is the smoke.

The faeries watched this all unfold in stupefied amazement.

As for the duel between Rhys and Nath, the former found himself greatly wounded.  As Nath worked towards finishing the duel, however, Rhys grabbed him by the horns and twisted them until he snapped the Taercenn’s neck – killing him instantly.  As his life left him, so did the glamour enchantment he had cast upon himself.  The once-respected elf now exposed as an eyeblight in disguise.

A while later, Gryffid located Nath’s body.  Taking up his late superior’s silver sword, he vowed to hunt down Rhys even if he had to destroy half of Lorwyn  to do it.

Afterwards, Colfenor is speaking rather cryptically to those in his audience – Brigid, Teeg, and the near-death Ashling – about how the world is changing and, for the world to survive, he must, too, survive.  He tells Brigid, who is dealing with her own emotions, not to fret, for he, too, has betrayed his friends and now must die.  But that he will be reborn anew, ready to carry on what’s left of their old world into the new one.

In company with Rhys once again, Brigid regrets her decision to follow the orders with which Teeg had tasked her and vows to right the wrongs she had caused.  The pair discuss for a moment, then decide to go back to Colfenor.

When they arrive, they witness a stead-like elemental charging towards both the treefolk and the near-death flamekin.  Just as her flame was to be extinguished forever, the passed through her.  Suddenly, Ashling’s flame burned brigher than ever before.  Colfenor, too, was set aflame as the flamekin’s body was lying against his.

The ancient yew burned brightly all through his death.  “Be seeing you, Rhys,” were the treefolk’s last words.

Emotional after the death of their friend, Colfenor, the party reconvenes and returns to the Murmering Bosk to check in on the seedling they had planted for him.  To their amazement, the seedling had grown a full six feet – something that should have taken years – in an extremely short time.

Rhys, wizened in the way of treefok, tells his companions that the sapling probably won’t gain consciousness or be able to move for years, if not decades.

It’s then that the party hears someone say “ouch.”

That’s when they notice the sapling showing facial features as it uproots itself while the party stares in amazement.

And that does it for part one of the two-part Lorwyn story.  Next month we’ll shed light on part two, Morningtide.  For now, though, there’s still a lot to say about Lorwyn as a set.

With Aaron Forsythe and Devin Low and the set’s design and development leads (respectively), Lorwyn brought to the game of Magic 300 new cards along with one reprint (Fertile Ground, which was first seen in Urza’s Saga).

The first set in a two-set “mini-block,” it kicked off a four set “mega-cycle” experiment, with Morningtide being the follow-up leading into a second mini-block consisting of Shadowmoor and Eventide.

<MARO LORWYN 2:43-49 “At the time…we’ve done.”  2:56-3:04 “The idea I had…in some way.”

Featuring heavy traditional fantasy and celtic-inspired theming (including that of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English influence), it’s the first set in Magic: The Gathering history to not contain the human creature type.

The set did, however, have a very heavy emphasis on tribal themes – so much so that the tribal card subtype that was teased at in the previous set, Planar Chaos, in the card Bound in Silence, was quite prevalent in not just the set, but the mega-block as a whole.

<MARO LORWYN 16:12-49 “It ended up being something we thought…worth the cost.”

Almost every color featured two tribes (with some carry-over into a secondary color):
•    Elves in green and black;
•    Faeries in blue and black;
•    Giants in red and white;
•    Goblins in black and red;
•    Kithkin in white and green;
•    Merfolk in blue and white;
•    Treefolk in green, black, and white, and;
•    Elementals, which were not only in red, but also in the game’s other four colors as well.

There are also shapeshifters, which are available in all colors, but are not a tribe unto themselves.  Rather, they feature the new changeling ability, which allows them to be all creature types at all times – even those not found in the set.  The ability is actually the keywording of an ability that was found previously on only one card in Magic history at the time: Mistform Ultimus from Legions.

And changeling is just one of an assortment of mechanics officially introduced in Lorwyn.

There’s also:
•    Champion, which is a mechanic that allows a powerful creature to, essentially, overlay a creature of a specific subtype.  An example of this can be seen on the card Wren’s Run Packmaster, which requires you to “champion” an elf by exiling an elf you control when it comes into play, but giving you that elf back once the Packmaster leaves the battlefield;
•    Clash, which creates a mini-contest of sorts in which clashing players reveal the top card of their libraries.  A player wins the clash if their revealed card has the highest converted mana cost, with a payoff should you win your clash;
•    Evoke, a keyword ability that appears on creatures that allow you to cast them at a discount to take advantage of enter-the-battlefield abilities, only to have to then immediately sacrifice the evoked creature. And;
•    Hideaway, which appears on a cycle of rare lands that let you “hide away” via exiling face-down from amongst the top few of your deck.  Once a specific condition is met, you can then play that card for free.  Hideaway, by the way, was recently brought back for the first time since Lorwyn in the recently-released set, Streets of New Capenna.

And, on the topic of cycles, Lorwyn has eight.  In addition to the hideaway lands, others of note include:
•    Commands, powerful rare modal spells that let you select two of each’s four modes upon cast.  Cryptic Command is often considered to be the most tournament-worthy of the bunch;
•    Incarnations, which were inspired by the original incarnation cycle from the set Judgment and provide a powerful boon to its controller, such as the card Dread destroying any creature that deals you damage;
•    Vivid lands, an uncommon cycle that come into play with two charge counters on them and can tap for one color of mana on their own, but can (at the cost of a charge counter) be tapped for a mana of any color, and;
•    Planeswalkers, which made their debut in Lorwyn after being pushed back from Future Sight where they were supposed to be introduced be.  While the number of planeswalker cards has exploded in the years since their introduction, there were initially only five (one for each color):  Ajani Goldmane, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, and Garruk Wildspeaker.

<MARO LORWYN 18:19-48 “We were going to…in a set.” 19:07-22 “The interesting thing…part of the game.”>

Lorwyn also had cycles based around creature subtypes, rather than color.  Examples of this are the various Champions, Harbingers, tribal legends, and so on that are found in the set.

While not largely considered to be a set full of competitive-level, or even widely notable cards, Lorwyn did contain a handful that made an impact one way or another.

•    Doran, the Siege Tower was, at one time, a Modern staple and was a component of Uri Peleg’s 2007 Worlds winning Doran Rock deck. It still sees play in EDH today;
•    Gaddock Teeg, which was a key inclusion in the once-powerful Maverick deck in Legacy and is still seen in competitive Loam builds today;
•    Ponder, a surprisingly good card draw card at common that had to be restricted to one copy per deck in Vintage and right-out banned in Modern due to it being simply too good of a combo enabler;
•    Thorn of Amethest, a good sideboard card that makes noncreature spells more expensive to cast;
•    Rings of Brighthearth, a combo-enabling artifact that allows its controller to copy their own activated non-mana abilities;
•    Ingot Chewer, a 3/3 for five mana that carries an evoke cost of just one red and destroys an artifact when it comes into play;
•    Mulldrifter, another evoke creature that allows its controller to draw two cards as an ETB trigger;
•    Shriekmaw, an evoke creature that emulates the old school Magic card, Terror, by allowing you to destroy a nonartifact, nonblack creature upon ETB;
•    The aforementioned Cryptic Command, which gives its caster a choice of two of the following modes: Counter target spell, return a permanent to its owners hand, tap all of your opponents’ creatures, and draw a card;
•    Profane Command, which gives its caster a choice of two between target player losing X life, returning a creature with mana value X or less to the battlefield, giving a target creature –X/-X until end of turn, or giving X target creatures the fear keyword ability until end of turn, and;
•    Thoughtseize, arguably the very best single discard spell ever printed in the game.  Often an ideal turn-one play, at the cost of one black and the loss of two life, you can force any player (including you, if it fits your strategy) to discard any nonland card of your choice.

<MARO DTW LORWYN CARDS 4 22:27 “This is a very aggressive discard spell…they were running into.”>

Oh, and as for the set’s prerelease and release promo, those were a foil, alternate are Wren’s Run Packmaster for the former and a special foiled Shriekmaw.

So, what are your thoughts on Lorwyn?  Is it amongst your favorite Magic: The Gathering sets?  If so, let us know in the comment section below.

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Thanks so much for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.