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The New Extended: Part One
- by Ted Slone
No doubt most of you have heard of the drastic changes Wizards of the Coast are making to Extended. For those of you who havenít:
There will be a significant change to the Extended tournament format when Onslaught rotates into play in the fall. Standard has a rotation every 3 sets. Similarly, Extended will have a rotation every 3 blocks. While Standard fluctuates between 4 and 6 sets, Extended will fluctuate between 6 and 8 blocks. At the initial implementation of this pattern, the legal blocks will be: Onslaught, Odyssey, Invasion, Mercadian Masques, Urza's Saga, and Tempest. Base set editions are counted as being part of the block during which they were released. This means that 6th Edition and 7th Edition will be included in the new Extended format. As a result, this means that dual lands will be rotating out of Extended on November 1st, 2002, along with the Ice Age block (including Alliances and Homelands), Mirage Block (including Visions and Weatherlight), and 5th edition. In 2005 the Tempest, Urza's Saga, and Mercadian Masques blocks, as well as 6th Edition, will be rotating out. We believe this new Extended Format rotation policy will result in a healthy and challenging play environment with a greatly reduced need for card banning. Kyle Murray, Magic Brand Manager
Thatís pretty big, isnít it? I was in #mtgwacky when they first posted the announcement on Sideboard.com, and WOW, was the response overwhelming. People were absolutely amazed at how far Wizards had gone this time. Most people were expecting Ice Age block, but few people were expecting (or hoping) that Dual lands and Mirage Block would go with it. Obviously, thereís going to be people that are for and against the changes, but in the end, whining about how you lost so much money because your Duals are worthless will get you nowhere.
Personally, I have mixed feelings. Iím upset that my almost-full set of Duals will drop in price (how much is to be seen in 6 months), and that I wonít be able to play some of my favorite Extended decks (primarily Junk, but I was also looking into PT Jumble, a 4-color control deck). However, Iím glad that Wizards decided to be proactive about changing the game. Extended has used this same format for years now, and I guess Wizards decided that it was time to change it around a bit. Iím always pro-change in Magic, and Iím sure myself and other experimental deckbuilders will enjoy attempting to exploit the fresh new format.
Wizards has likely been contemplating something like this for a long time. This can be seen in some of the recent cards.
Nevinyrralís Disk? Pernicious Deed. Ball Lightning? Skizzik. Dual lands? Invasion taplands and Apocalypse painlands. Ball Lightning? Browbeat (more on this later). Gaeaís Blessing? Dwell on the Past. For the most part, the "reprints" have been weaker than the original, but the fact remains that it seems that Wizards was subtly preparing for this rotation by giving us what we were going to lose in another form.
With Dual lands gone and the best alternatives either coming into play tapped or hurting you when you use them for colored mana, you can bet that most of the decks will either be one or two colors. There are a few obvious decks that come to mind first, like Sligh, Stompy, White Weenie, Black Weenie (all aggro decks), and Mono-Blue control. However, further testing will definitely be needed in order to determine other, better decks. I have come up with a few decks that I think may see some play (disclaimer - these decks are for the most part untested, so please donít say "so-and-so shouldnít be in this deck blah blah blah"...itís all theory)
The first deck is actually a rather old Type 2 idea, based on Deranged Hermit/Plaguelord. The combination there seems pretty obvious. A utility-based deck, The Rock and his Millions won GP Las Vegas at the hands of Mikey P, and was popular last Extended season for a little while. It got a HUGE boost from Apocalypse, and stands to be one of the staples in the new Extended.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Wall of Blossoms
4 Yavimaya Elder
3 Spike Feeder
3 Wild Mongrel
2 Spike Weaver
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
4 Pernicious Deed
2 Vampiric Tutor
2 Living Death
1 Recurring Nightmare
1 Volrathís Stronghold
2 Dust Bowl
3 Treetop Village
4 Llanowar Wastes
This particular list seems pretty conventional. Elders fix your mana and provide card advantage, while Walls and Spikes help hold off opposing hordes. Pernicious Deed is the best board clearer in the game, so why not play it? The only things that may seem a bit odd are the Mongrels, the single Genesis and the absence of maindeck Duresses.
Let me tell you a little bit about Genesis. He is the absolute nuts in this deck if you can get him into the graveyard (through Mongrel, by getting him killed, whatever). The thought of recurring an Elder or Spike every turn makes me want to...you know. Heís not all that shabby as a Durkwood Boar, but itís his recursive properties that make him a keeper.
Wild Mongrel was a recent addition. I was trying to think of ways to get Genesis into the graveyard, provide early beatdown, and set up for a devastating Living Death, and Mongrel fit the bill perfectly. He is an excellent way of getting rid of excess basic lands thanks to Elders, and is just an all-around good card.
The reason Iím not playing Duress is because I think the metagame post-November will be largely aggro, reducing Duressís usefulness. Of course, if I see the metagame shifting, Iíll find room for Duresses somewhere.
The second deck I think will be an Extended mainstay is Tinker. This once-Type 2 powerhouse certainly has the potential to dominate in a new Extended metagame. Hereís my most recent list:
4 Voltaic Key
4 Grim Monolith
4 Thran Dynamo
4 Tangle Wire
2 Phyrexian Processor
1 Phyrexian Colossus
1 Crumbling Sanctuary
2 Stroke of Genius
4 Ancient Tomb
4 City of Traitors
4 Crystal Vein
This deck varies from the traditional Tinker builds with the addition of Upheaval. Upheaval is an amazing card in a deck that can produce as much explosive amounts of mana as this. Iíve Upheavaled on turn five, ending the turn with City of Traitors, Key, Monolith, Metalworker and Masticore in play. Not bad when your opponent has nothing, eh?
Fast mana is the key to this deck. Early Monoliths, Keys and Dynamos allow this deck to play normally costly spells much faster, while the opponent is standing in your dust with only a few lands in play. Metalworker can also produce insane amounts of mana, especially if played turn one off a Monolith. Itís also especially good after an Upheaval, letting you basically play your entire hand for free.
Tangle Wire is absolutely essential in the control matchup, as it allows you to lock them down while you have your way with them. Itís also a good Tinker target, especially when it has few or no counters on it. Mishraís Helix, while only a sideboarded card now, performs very much in the same fashion.
Now, Iíve seen people pro-Upheaval and anti-Upheaval in regards to this deck, and Iíve gotta say that I think Upheaval definitely deserves elaborate testing. The possibility to clear the board and start the game again at your convenience, while coupled with the mana this deck produces, is an asset and should be abused to its full extent.
Brainstorm is good for finding early combo pieces or just for fixing your hand, while Stroke can be insane in the mid-to-late game with so much mana.
Moving on, we come to a deck that may surprise people. However, let me tell you one thing - Oath isnít dead. Iím sure many of you aggro players are loving how Dual lands, Force of Will, Swords, the Duals and the Mirage search lands are waving goodbye, but donít get your hopes up...Oath is still going to be strong. However, its old form is impossible to recreate. We need to go back to the old days of Oath.
4 Oath of Druids
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Fact or Fiction
4 Powder Keg
3 Mana Leak
3 Thorn Elemental
2 Spike Weaver
3 Treetop Village
4 Yavimaya Coast
Ah, Suicide Oath. The "Suicide" in the name refers to the fact that youíre playing without any Gaeaís Blessing, so you need to kill them before your library runs out. However, with Thorn Elemental, it doesnít take much to get the job done.
The deck also sports a healthy number of counters. Counterspell is a must, and Forbid/Thwart each serve different utility-based needs while Mana Leak is a fantastic early-game counter. Card drawing like Brainstorm, AK and Fact or Fiction help find whatever you need to control the game, and Powder Keg is quickly becoming one of the best mass removal spells in Extended.
Only time will tell whether or not Suicide Oath will be playable in Extended after the rotation, but itís definitely worth testing.
Next is a deck I think will definitely be one of the most powerful decks in the new format. Many have tried it, few have succeeded. You only need to remember one thing while playing this deck...more swamps = more death.
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Zombie Infestation
3 Buried Alive
3 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Verdant Force
1 Crosis, the Purger
1 Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Nether Spirit
1 Phantom Nishoba
2 Rishadan Port
Yep...the infamous Benzo. Popularized by a Top 4 finish at PT New Orleans by The Hump, this deck has the potential for some seriously abusive draws. Second turn gigantic fatties are hard to deal with, especially without fear of Force of Will and Swords to Plowshares.
The first thing that may pop out to you is Phantom Nishoba. I think this guy is a fantastic Reanimate/Exhume target, especially against something like Sligh where it not only gains sick amounts of life, but is also almost impossible to kill. It may look a little random, but I bet itíll win games against the most aggro of aggro decks.
Mutilate is just there to make sure you donít die too quickly, before stabilizing with an Infestation/reanimation spell. I cut the Port number to two for better synergy with Mutilate. Another good thing about it is that most of the creatures in the deck are big enough to survive an early Mutilate, while most of the opponentís creatures likely wonít.
When most people think of Sligh, they immediately think of Ball Lightning, Fireblast and Incinerate. However, those cards are gone now, and Slighís explosive capability is going to go with them. That doesnít mean Sligh isnít playable, as there are still a bevy of good Red cards that can smash a lot of face.
4 Seal of Fire
4 Volcanic Hammer
4 Cursed Scroll
3 Urzaís Rage
4 Jackal Pup
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Goblin Patrol
3 Barbarian Ring
With Fireblast and Incinerate gone, we need to turn to less...efficient burn spells. Urzaís Rage is a fine candidate, with its inability to be countered. The kicker isnít likely, but you never know. Volcanic Hammer is unfortunately the best 2-mana burn spell around with Incinerate gone, so it goes in. Also filling out the new burn slots is Seal of Fire, a card previously overshadowed by the Mirage Block burn. Browbeat replaces Ball Lightning, as it is basically a shitload of damage for three mana. Itís also never bad to draw three cards for one when theyíre low on life, which should be often. Although never guaranteed damage, itís still a great addition to the deck.
Grim Lavamancers make a fine extra source of non-creature damage, as the deck fills the graveyard very quickly with all the burn and fast creatures. It may not by synergistic with Ring, but they can still coexist.
Anyways, I think I may be rambling a bit so Iíll continue the rest of the decktypes in another article.