Network  May 18, 2002

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The Tome

Extended Woes
  - by Tim Sprague

For the last week or so, I have been working off an on with a very involved article that revolves around the modern era of the Oath deck. I plotted the course of the popular Extended deck throughout all of its forms, from MaherOath to TurboLand to Turbobliterate to even Oath of Trix. Most importantly, however, I went into what the deck is doing both right and wrong currently, with suggestions of how to keep it at the peak efficiency in each of the possible directions the metagame could have taken. The article isnít perfect, of course, but then no article ever is. However, I have spent three years now using my beloved Oath of Druids, so Iím very familiar with the principles.

But since the DCI decided to completely fuck up Extended, whatís the point of such an article? After all, there arenít any large Extended tournaments between now and the Extended rotation, so why should an article about modern Oath be needed?

Oath does have a place in this particular article, however. Iíll go ahead and use it to illustrate a point. When you first look at the rotation, it may not seem as if all that much is really leaving the format (weíll forget about the dual lands for the moment). Illusions of Grandeur is gone, which kills Trix. Thatís probably the most prominent change that is immediately apparent. Either that, or the fact that Force of Will is no longer in the format. Either of these two come immediately to mind.

Letís use the example of Oath. What cards often seen in the archetype are no longer going to be in Extended?

Gaeaís Blessing
Thawing Glaciers
Sylvan Library
Swords to Plowshares
Flood Plain

And thatís only off the top of my head.

Oath as we know it is now officially dead in Extended. This isnít one of those figurative ďdeadsĒ, like Trix was ďdeadĒ last season because of MiracleGro. It is literally a dead archetype. Without Gaeaís Blessing to shuffle the graveyard back into the library, the deck simply canít function well enough to get by. Perhaps this is the what biases me against the rotation so emphatically. While I would tinker around with multiple decks during Extended season, I would always find my way back to Oath.

Letís forget about Oath. How about Sligh? Does Sligh take a serious hit as well? Hereís what it loses.

Ball Lightning

Now, that doesnít seem like all that much, but it may be more than it seems at a first glance. Fireblast was the traditional finisher for Sligh for a reason: itís the most broken of the burn spells in the format. Itís a semi-free four points of damage that can come out of nowhere for the final push. For a long time, the scariest moment in a game of Extended was when an opponent activated a Cursed Scroll and named Fireblast with one card in hand. Incinerate is much the same. The successor to Lightning Bolt was an important tool in Sligh, and in some cases it was superior to Lightning Bolt (when youíre trying to beat Stompy, you need a way to stop River Boa).

The loss of Ball Lightning, howeverÖ

That might be the one card that Sligh canít bear to lose. Ball Lightning was never really a creature, after all. It was a sorcery-speed six damage for three mana. Going past that, though, Ball Lightning was always the signature card of Sligh. Oath has Oath of Druids, MiracleGro has Quirion Dryad, and Sligh has Ball Lightning. It defined the spirit of the deck, and its loss is a powerful psychological blow. No, Magic isnít about emotional attachments to cards or being forced into a ďmust-have mindframe, but itís still true all the same.

Thereís always Stompy to fall back on, right?

Elvish Spirit Guide
Winter Orb
Rogue Elephant
Bounty of the Hunt
Briar Shield
Quirion Ranger
Ghazban Ogre
Emerald Charm

Hmm, okay, letís see here. Thereís always mono-Blue control. Sure, you lose Force of Will, but there should still be enough good options to make it doable.

Man Oí War
Rainbow Efreet

Not all that much of a loss, but enough to make it much more difficult to proceed with the deck. What you have to consider, though, is that certain deck archetypes are going to be strengthened amazingly due to the rotation. One of these such decks is Reanimator. Can mono-Blue stop a first turn Entomb, second turn Exhume with any sort of regularity? Since Sligh will still be around in one form or another, can mono-Blue stop the usual first turn Jackal Pup and the burn that it brings with it?

But hey, thereís a bright side! Boil is good again! And yes, this is an extremely sarcastic statement!

Folks, Iíll make this crystal clear. Wizards has fucked up on this one, fucked up royally. We donít have an Extended format anymore; weíve got Extra Strength Standard. The format itself hasnít been killed. No, instead itís been neatly made into another source of income for the Hasbro bastards that donít understand what Magic is really about. In one neat little announcement Wizards has managed to shatter forever the ďfeelĒ of Extended, that sense that it was a truly unique format. The format wasnít stagnant, as last season proved, and there wasnít some powerhouse that needed to be stripped away. Wizards took a perfectly healthy format and snapped its back. Fuck Ice Age, fuck Mirage, fuck 5th Edition, and of course, fuck the defining centerpiece of Extended, the dual lands.

Youíre damn right Iím angry about this shit. Iíve made a career out of breaking the ever-changing format of Extended, and now Iíve had the ONE format in Magic that I actually unquestioningly enjoyed destroyed. The ďif it isnít broken, donít fix itĒ philosophy is apparently as alien of a concept to Wizards as the notion of Big and Tall stores to a pygmy. I really donít give a crap if you agree with me or not, because this is almost registering as a personal insult in my view. Itís a slap in the face to the loyal Extended players.

You know what, though? Life goes on, and so does Magic. Iím not going to be like some of the hotheads that instantly declared, "Iím quitting Magic forever!Ē Of course I wonít quit. Iíll eventually move on, but I really doubt that Extended will ever hold the same appeal for me again. It may very well remain my favorite format, because itís not as close-minded as Type One and not as fickle as Standard. Oh, and 1.5 is a bad joke right now, so thatís not even on the radar. My favorite Standard environment of all time was Tempest/Urza, and suddenly now Extended is reflecting that format.

It wonít be the same, however. It simply just wonít be the same.

It also appears that I need to find a new signature card since the Oath-based decks (with the exception of the abomination AggrOath) have been slaughtered. Perhaps I donít have far to look. For a long time, Tradewind Rider was my favorite creature in the game. While people were praising the awesome power of Morphling or discussing the merits of Masticore, I was tapping creatures to bounce permanents. Thereís something almost mystical about Tradewind Rider. Maybe itís the picture, the depiction of a spirit of the wind being carried off on the air currents. Whatever the case, suddenly the Rider has been thrust back into the forefront of Extended, something that hasnít happened since Survival of the Fittest was banned.

Normally I try to jam in an Extended decklist whenever I speak of the format. I apologize for the lack of planning, but itís a wee bit hard to pull out a solid deck when everything important suddenly isnít there anymore. Post-rotation tech, which I believe is the first example of such on the internet. An honor for The Tome, Iím sure.


4x Birds of Paradise
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Deranged Hermit
2x Morphling
4x Tradewind Rider

4x Call of the Herd
3x Awakening
4x Brainstorm
4x Standstill
4x Counterspell
2x Forbid

4x Yavimaya Coast
12x Island
10x Forest

Tested? No. Based on a past strong concept? Indeed.

Hopefully my next article will be more tech-based for the new Extended format, but Iíll need suitable time to sulk around and be pissed at Wizards. Once thatís cleared up, expect to see something a little moreÖunique.

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