Today I want to look at yet another archetype in depth with the goal of using it to explore what makes an archetype work and how synergy should be approached in Solforge draft.
The archetype is Five Lane Green, and here is a deck I recently drafted and went 4-0 with:
Southside Stegadon (for some reason the Solforge AI calls him Stouthide Stegadon instead)
Deepwood Bear Rider
Broadly speaking, Five Lane Green is built around cards that generate more than one creature and cards that benefit from having most or all of the lanes occupied. Let’s look at what I call the synergy family.
First, you have cards that create more than one creature. They may do so immediately like Branchweaver Druidor Ether Hounds of Love, or they may create one creature now that leaves another behind when it dies. (This is one reason why I most often pair Uterra with Nekrium for this archetype.) In this deck I have two Druids plus a Death Seeker, Shambler and Hunting Pack. That’s a bit fewer than I like, but not bad.
Then you have cards that benefit from full lanes. These include global pump like Ferocious Roar, Group Meal and Overwhelming Force as well as my first overall pick in the draft, Lifeblood Dryad. Spring Dryad doesn’t actually care how many lanes are filled but cares a lot about how quickly you can fill them once she’s in play.
The synergy between these groups is obvious – the first group fills your lanes and the second does something powerful as a result. But what makes the archetype tick is the much broader range of synergy options you have once that basic strategy is in place.
Consider Corpse Crawler and Spiritleash. At first glance they are at odds with the deck’s plan since the Crawler doesn’t add to your creature count and Spiritleash actually reduces it. But they are both above-the-curve spells that need a body – any body – in order to play. Between the Druids and Death Seeker we have three cards we’re eager to play that give us an almost-useless body, so these spells have a nice home.
Finally we have synergy with how we expect our games to play out. In this case we can assume that in many games we will have one or two Spring Dryads growing at an alarming (for our opponents) rate. A level 3 Dryad can easily grow out of control, so having Feral Instinct as a way to let it punch through chump-blockers is great. I’m also glad to have Vyric’s Embrace (one of the best overall removal spells in the game anyway), which can either clear a path or simply prevent the second blocker in a team effort from bringing a big Dryad down.
When drafting a synergy family it’s important to keep a sense of what your options are and which ones are showing the most promise. Notice the Nightgaunt – a wonderful creature but one that I never cast with this deck. I only have one real pump spell, so I can’t count on Nightgaunt going large and if he’s not going large then I have better things to do (since he doesn’t help with the rest of the deck’s strategy). If I’m going to play a random body I’d rather play Xithian Crusher, which is generally superior without pump. But suppose I’d picked up a couple of Strength in Numbers (a very solid card in FLG) in addition to Spiritleash? Then a Big Regeneration strategy could have become viable, either as an alternative (based on how draws came up) or shifting into the dominant strategy based on how the draft went.
What makes a synergy family work is that each card has multiple potential partners that will increase its value. Branchweaver Druid can fill two lanes so that Lifeblood Dryad triggers. It can simply double-trigger a Spring Dryad, helping it grow beyond what the opponent can easily cope with. It can feed Corpse Crawler while leaving a reasonable body behind. And, often enough, it can do more than one of these things.
Imagine that you play a Spring Dryad and another creature on an empty board. Next turn, you play Branchweaver Druid and Lifeblood Dryad – even at level one your Spring Dryad is now an 8/8. Of course, we can’t always be that lucky, but your second play could also have been a Corpse Crawler, or perhaps you pushed the Dryad out of the opponent’s range with Spiritleash.
Each game will play out differently, but when there are so many ways for your cards to combine to create more than the sum of their individual power you have a strong synergy family.
This, by the way, is why I think Five Lane Green is generally a stronger archetype than it may seem. The individual cards can seem weak or dependent on synergy (e.g. Lifeblood Dryad, which is amazing if she triggers but poor if she doesn’t) but there are so many opportunities for synergy that the archetype is often very powerful. I have, for example, often played Lifeblood Dryad without a trigger during rank one and then again in a later rank, losing a little bit of power but then blowing my opponent out when she triggered at level 3. With enough multi-creature generators it can be almost impossible for an opponent to prevent this (provided you keep a reasonable balance of initiative).
As an aside, I want to give my respect to roguepanda, my opponent in the finals. He (or she)made a real game of it, even reaching board parity at one point, despite this being the board state at the end of my first turn:
I’ve had people concede after absurd starts like that. (And yes, I led with Hunting Pack precisely because the one in eight chance of a turn-one Lifeblood Dryad trigger – plus the general strategic point of playing token generators in this archetype – seemed worth the risk of a weak start.) roguepanda may or may not have been cursing me out from behind the screen, but I couldn’t tell from the way he fought back.
Hugs ‘til next time,