Magic History: Morningtide

Magic Untapped takes a look back at the set Morningtide.

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 Morningtide, the second set in Magic: The Gathering's Lowryn-Shadowmoor mega block.

Check it out:

Video Transcript:

The second set in the Lowryn mini-block, Morningtide, released on the first of February, 2008.  With it came 148 new cards along with a pair of reprints: Boldwyr Intimidator (first seen as a futureshifted card in Future Sight) and Elvish Warrior, a card first introduced in Onslaught some six or so years prior.

The story of Morningtide can be experienced by reading the Morningtide nivel by Cory J. Herndon and Scott McGough.  It picks up not too long after the events of the mini-block’s original novel, Lorwyn.

And, as usual, here’s a summary of it all:

The eyeblight elf, Rhys, gets jumped by a band of elves that turn out to be the very same hunters he used to command.  Thing is, it isn’t Rhys at all.  Rather, it’s Brigid, the kithkin hero of the town of Kinsbaile, in disguise.

She is initially able to escape, only to find herself getting pummeled shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, the real Rhys, along with the mournsong elf, Maralen, and Ashling the flamekin, are able to infiltrate the realm of the Gilt-Leaf Elves and free the giant brothers, Brion and Kiel, whom the elves were planning on turning into obedient zombie-like entities known as vinebred.

Once they have their wits about them, the Vendilion clique of faries who had been accompanying the party since pretty much the beginning convinces the brothers to take them all to see Rosheen, the giants’ sister.

Shortly thereafter, Ashling (whom had been suffering from anxiety and an overall feeling of worthlessness since her re-ignition) feels that she failed her true path by meeting with her destined elemental much too soon as she was not yet ready for her ascension within her race.  In short, she snaps and, instead of guarding the giants and assisting the group, she goes off on her own intent on hunting down and punishing the elemental for how she now feels.

The merfolk, Sygg, whom had been assisting the group with transport up and down Lorwyn’s waterways, decides it’s best he departs as well so that he can look into some stange occurrences that have been happening recently amongst his kind.  Brigid decides to accompany him.  Not too long after their departure together, they find what Sygg was looking for by way of being attacked by a crazed member of Sygg’s race.

And another in their party – the sapling grown from the seed of the fallen treefolk sage, Colfenor, begins to wander, deciding she should look for the recently departed Ashling.  Endry, one of the faeries that make up the Vendilion clique, accompanies her.

On the topic of Ashling, the flameking arrives at the place of her birth – Mount Tanufel.  There, she is attacked by monks of the Ember Fell monastery for having an inappropriate ascension, instructing her that she must enter the order to make her ascension properly.  Ashling, however, refused.

In response, the monks animate an enormous stone giant to deal with her.  Unexpectedly (and with great timing), Colfenor’s sapling and Endry arrive (along with some flightless faeries they picked up along their way) and assist her in taking down the titan.

Meanwhile, back with the remaining members of the original party, Rhys and Maralen, Veesa and Iliona, the other two faeries who make up the Vendilion clique, begin to plot against Maralen, tired of the mournsong elf constantly exerting authority over them.

Shortly thereafter, the group finds Rosheen... asleep… and begin to figure out exactly how they’re going to wake her up.  Luckily, they don’t necessarily need to.  Thanks to some fae magic, they are able to witness some of the giant sage’s visions for themselves.  As they slumber and experience the show, something awakens within Maralen.

As for Brigid and Sygg, they fight, then run from the crazed merfolk.  Just as they’ve managed to escape from the mad marrow, they run into another (and, thankfully, normal) one.  The three talk about the odd occurrences amongst their people, trying to figure out exactly what is going on.  That’s when their new acquaintance suddenly goes mad.

Brigid and Sygg escape yet again and find themselves at the Paupurfylln school whereupon it’s discovered that the merfolk was once the mate of the school’s leader and he once bore the title “Heir to Morningtide.”  His former mate, however, isn’t exactly happy to see him and orders his capture and execution.  Sygg grabs an artifact he once possessed as Heir known as the Crescent of Morningtide in hopes that it can help cure whatever is ailing his kinsmen, and he and Brigid depart post-haste, the kithkin taking hold of the merfolk’s momento.

Back with Rhys and company, the Gilt-Leaf elves who have been tracking him finally catch up.  The eyeblight is then captured by his former second-in-command, Gryffid, but before he could kill him, Gryffid’s recently-assigned new commanding officer, Eidren, steps in.

He provides Rhys a little background information about his traveling companion, Maralen, stating that (in short), she isn’t the same Maralen who was accompanying his then bride-to-be when the wedding party was ambushed a while back.  Rather, shoe’s something else inhabiting the form of Maralen.  Eidren then offers Rhys a place once again within the Gilt-Leaf in exchange for his obedience.

As this is happening, the giant, Brion, awakens and notices his eyeblight friend missing.  The giant follows some nearby tracks and discovers Rhys in the hands of the very same elves who had previously attacked them.  Thinking he’s helping his eyeblight friend, the giant attacks the contingent of elves.

And, before Rhys can accept Eidren’s offer of reinstatement, Brion attacks and pretty much destroys the entire Gilt-Leaf contingent, save for Eidren, who is able to evade the giant’s attacks.  Between blows, the high elf throws a vial of moonglove poison into the giant’s mouth, suffocating him as the fatal poison takes hold.

Rhys then finally accepts Eidren’s offer of reinstatement into Gilt-Leaf society.

That’s when Maralen shows up.  She does away with what’s left of Eidren’s solders before exiling Eidren himself from the scene.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world begins turning dark.

An event known as The Great Aurora is occurring as the world of Lorwyn begins to become twisted as the centuries-long pleasantness of the plane’s daytime set into motion by the queen of the fae, Oona, began to finally transition into a dark and vicious nighttime.

Ashling, having finally agreed to allow the ritual to take place, was faces with the shadowy reality of a world of disfigured, feral flamekin.  Her destiny, as it turns out, was to become a vessel to bring the flamekin fire safely into the new, darker world, by uniting with the greater elemental and Colefenor’s sapling, who bares the ancient wisdom of Colfenor himself – just as the late, ancient yew had planned.

Ashling, however, was tired of being used for the plans of others.

In the mere seconds of transition in which the two worlds – that of Lorwyn and Shadowmoor – coexist, she seizes control, forcefully absorbing the elemental into herself as the sapling burns, some of the power from the enchanted fire transferring to Maralen by way of the young treefolk.

As for Maralen, it’s discovered that she, indeed, wasn’t Maralen at all and hasn’t been since the fateful day of the wedding party’s ambush.  Instead, Oona had used her corpse as an avatar of sort for herself in order to store her memories in the event that the upcoming Great Aurora would affect her just as it does most all creatures on the plane.

Maralen, now knowing all that Oona knows, gleefully accepts the plane’s new reality. 

Rhys, meanwhile, goes to locate Eidren and rejoin the Gilt-Leaf.

Brigid, who holds Sygg’s Crescent of Morningtide, sees the changes occurring around her – including that of her merfolk companion – but finds herself unaffected by the change.

And Ashling, well, her flame has never burned brighter.  And this new, dark world is all but hers to ignite.
Thus ends not just the plot of Lorwyn/Morningtide, but the plane of Lorwyn as well as both the story and the location morph into the near-eternal night of Shadowmoor.

Thankfully, there’s still more to talk about in terms of Morningtide as a Magic: The Gathering set.

Morningtide expanded upon Lorwyn’s flavor and themes by way of shifting the focus away from tribal identity of its predecessor’s eight races and towards the five classes this new set focuses on: rogues, shamans, soldiers, warriors, and wizards.  The set also has a number of cards that care about +1/+1 counters.

<MARO DTW MT1 02:12-19, 2:35-56 “The shtick of…about classes.” “So, this set had…on the board.”>

Despite the partial departure from Lorwyn’s themes, the clash and evoke mechanics that were introduced in the set return and join three new mechanics that make their debut in Morningtide:
•    Prowl, which is an alternate cost to play a spell and may be used if you’ve dealt combat damage to a player with a creature that shares a type with the card that has prowl.  For example, Thieves’ Fortune, a rogue tribal instant, can be cast for just one blue mana rather than 2U so long as you’ve dealt combat damage to a player with one of your rogue creatures;
•    Kinship, which is a keyword ability that allows you to look at the top card of your library at the beginning of your upkeep.  And, should it share a creature type with the creature with the kinship ability, you reveal it and get to do an effect.  An example of this can be seen on the card Nightshade Schemers which, if you reveal a faerie or wizards, each opponent loses two life.  And;
•    Reinforce, which is an activated ability that you can play from your hand and lets you put +1/+1 counters equal to the card’s reinforce number.  The card Burrenton Bombardier, for example, has Reinforce 2 and, thusly, places two +1/+1 counters onto a target creature.

In addition to these three new mechanics, Morningtide also featured a whopping eleven cycles (which is quite a lot considering the set’s small size).  Most notable amongst these are:
•    Tribal equipment (one for each of Morningtide’s five classes), such as the card Thornbite Staff caring about the shaman creature type;
•    Bannerets, each of which being a two-drop creature that reduces the casting cost of its two related creature types.  Ballyrush Banneret, for example, is a 2/1 for 1W and reduces the kithkin and soldier spells by one generic mana;
•    Clashback spells, all of which feature the Clash ability from Lorwyn and return to your hand should you win the clash, and;
•    +1/+1 tribal lords, each of which provides +1/+1 counters for incoming creatures of each’s specific type and can use those counters for a beneficial purpose, such as is seen on the card Oona’s Blackguard, which can force your opponent to discard a card each time they’re dealt combat damage by a creature with a +1/+1 counter on it.

Morningtide also has one mirrored pair in the cards Mind Shatter and Mind Spring, with the former causing card discard and the latter causing card draw.  The cards are (essentially) rebalanced versions of the O.G. Magic cards Mind Twist and Braingeyser, respectively.

As for other notable cards found within the set, Morningtide had a small assortment:
•    Bitterblossom, a dominate card for faerie strategies when the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor blocks were in Standard.  The card is still considered a powerful inclusion today and can be found in competitive decks across EDH and Legacy;
<MARO DTW MT1 15:40-16:06 “I designed this card…and flavorful.”
•    Maralen of the Mornsong, which is a combo piece in certain EDH decks;
•    Mutavault, considered one of the best and most versatile “man-land” cards in the game.  Still today, the card sees inclusion in Pioneer, Legacy, and Modern decks thanks to its changeling (this creature is all creature types) ability;
<MARO DTW MT3 3:22-37, 3:48-4:10, 4:30-36 “So this was…of Mishra’s Factory.” “Now, Mishra’s…a creature +1/+1.” “And so…powerful card.”
•    Release the Ants, a clashback spell that can finish games in your favor should you have the right spell on top of your deck;
•    Reveillark, which was the backbone of the competitive red/white “Boat Brew" deck that made top eight at Pro Tour Kyoto in 2009;
•    Scapeshift, a key card found in Modern that pairs extremely well with the Zendikar card Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and;
•    Vendilion Clique, a tournament-quality card that (while not in as widespread use as it used to be) can still be found in competitive EDH and Modern decks here and there.
<MARO DTW MT3 35:22-36 36:32-57 “This is a bend…in black.” “This card went…good as that card.”

Also, the prerelease promo for Morningtide is a alternate art foil of the card Door of Destinies (itself a popular tribal inclusion in EDH).  A special foil Earwig Squad served as the set’s release promo.

So, is Morningtide one of your favorite Magic: The Gathering sets?  Love it or hate it, let us know your thoughts about it in the comment section below.

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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.