So here’s the problem with free heroin…
I guess you really don’t need me to point out the various and sundry issues involving making addictive substances available to addictive personalities with no attached costs beyond the time it takes to take them and the toll they take on the takers lives.
So here’s the problem with free Magic Online…
I guess you really don’t need me to point anything out here either. The similarities between the two products is amazing though. I have been “fortunate” enough to be included in the Betrayers of Kamigawa Beta test for MTGO. I suddenly found myself able to play in countless drafts and Sealed Deck tournaments without having to spend the cash that normally keeps my MTGO problem in check. I have also found myself playing Magic until the wee hours of the night, waking up only to stumble to the computer for a Sealed Deck tournament, forgetting to eat, and neglecting to bathe.
The other day I had to tear myself away from the screen and drag my atrophied frame into the shower and head out into the harsh light of day. As I stumbled down 7th Avenue it suddenly occurred to me that I was ravenous, as food had not even entered my thoughts since morning. The nearest street corner yielded two sausages from a hot dog vendor. As I consumed the dubious but tasty meat products I became aware of a disgusting sound.
It was the sound of my own eating. I was so hungry that I was actually making audible cartoon sounds to the disgust of nearby pedestrians. (I actually consulted several people about the best spelling for my onomatopoeia. Becker suggested, “Chomp…chomp…chomp” but it didn’t quite capture the guttural quality I was looking for so “mrawm’ it was.) It was clear that all of my Betrayers of Kamigawa Limited play was taking its toll on me. It was clear that I had a problem.
I turned to my higher power for assistance…
I went to Neutral Ground and chewed over the Extended format with Mike Clair (with a minimum of disgusting mouth sounds) as he tried to figure out what the heck to play for this weekend’s PTQ double header of Philadelphia and Maryland. Decklists were streaming into the Wizards Extended Top 8 PTQ page and the wealth of information was truly dizzying.
Already the Goblin Welder/Reanimator deck dubbed “Teen Titans” from the first weekend’s decklists had roared into the Top 8 of Grand Prix: Boston and as more and more decks showed up it seemed that between the PTQ results and the diverse set of decks in Boston you could expect to see anything in the coming weeks.
Originally I was going to contribute a Solitary Confinement article to the “10 Extended Decks in 10” Days series. With each new combo deck that bobbed up in the sea of deck lists it was looking worse and worse for Jordan Berkowitz’ favorite combo deck. Confinement was amazing against Red Deck Wins, Goblins, non-Canali Affinity, Blue/Green Madness, and any other aggro deck but against Mind’s Desire, Aluren, and Teen Titans I didn’t like its chances.
Furthermore, there were so many decks to think about now that 10 Decks in 10 Days was bound to fall woefully short of encompassing the metagame. I discussed the matter with Ted and we decided that I would try to present a Top 10 list of decks that would not be gathered under the umbrella of the “10 Decks…”.
I pored over the lists for decks that were not covered in the article series. I ignored Life in the Top 8 of Boston regardless of whether it had Unspeakable Symbol, since it has already been dissected by [author name="Chad Ellis"]Chad Ellis[/author]. Same with Cephalid Breakfast, although that still left a couple of decks for this week’s list. I have arranged the decks from ten down with one being the deck from this list that you are most likely to face this weekend at the PTQ.
#10 – Enchantress
4th Place Tokyo, Japan – 2/6
“>Wall of Blossoms
“>Seal of Removal
“>Words of Wind
“>Stroke of Genius
“>Cloud of Faeries
1 Monk Realist
Fine, maybe you won’t be seeing too much of this one come Saturday but the deck can go off as early as turn 3 usually on the heels of a turn 1 Wild Growth and turn 2 Enchantress. The basic game plan is to get multiple permanents in play that allow/force you to draw cards whenever you play an enchantment. Exploration allows you to play multiple lands and keep your combo fully fueled. Words of Wind locks your opponent down while letting you pick up and replay enchantments. If one of those enchantments is Exploration you can pick it up and replay it – resetting it each time so you can play additional lands from your hand.
Against any aggro deck but Affinity you have all the time in the world, thanks to the untargetability of Argothian Enchantress combined with Worship. Wall of Blossoms also hold back some early beats while helping you find the pieces you need to assemble your combo.
The deck can hold its own against combo as well, but as always it is a race to see who goes off first. Aluren seems like a straight up race, although their hand destruction can be crushing if they know to name either Enchantress or her Presence. Against Life you can let them gain all the life they want as you will just deck them eventually with Stroke of Genius. Reanimator and Cepahlid Breakfast are not happy to see main deck Seal of Removal and Snap. It should often be a turn faster than Mind’s Desire as well.
You probably won’t see much of this, as it is fairly hard to play and is non-intuitive. Where most decks try to run you out of life or cards this deck is really about resetting your adversary’s resources to zero – or close to zero – and eventually finding the way to beat them, either Stroke of Genius or a Living Wished Ambassador Laquatus. If something goes horribly awry you can always Wish for a Masticore and smash some face…
#9 – White Weenie
Brett Landon McDonald
2nd Place Shreveport, Louisiana – 2/5
You can’t actually keep this deck down. No matter what happens, no matter what the format is, there will always be someone willing to play White Weenie. A deck based around attacking for two seems a little janky in an environment with so much powerful stuff going on and this deck probably looked a lot more appealing when it seemed like everyone was going to be playing Mountains – note the maindecked Absolute Law and Silver Knights.
I love the lone artifact land that can be fetched with Enlightened Tutor. It would be a lot more exciting of it was for Seat of the Synod to allow for turn 2 Meddling Mages, but it is still a neat little feature of this deck. Doesn’t this deck want Aether Vial though? Vialing out a Ramosian Sergeant and using it to fetch Whipcorder seems like a better than average play.
The problem with this deck is that it just doesn’t seem like it has any interaction with a combo deck. You just try and kill them before they kill you, which should be just fine with the combo player who generally uses his/her life as a resource until they can pull the trigger.
#8 – Welder Intuition
2nd Place Omaha, Nebraska – 2/5
Why play Extended when you can be enjoying Vintage with Type 1 faves like Goblin Welder, Mindslaver, Sundering Titan, and Crucible of Worlds – might as well throw in Trinisphere and Smokestack and have a party!
This deck bears some resemblance to the Teen Titans deck but forgoes the Reanimator component in favor of card drawing, countermagic, and disruption. There was another deck similar to this in the database, but it had Islands which seems completely counterintuitive to idea of Welding up a Sundering Titan. This deck cannot do what it sets out to do as easily as the Black Reanimator version and is entirely reliant on the Goblin Welder with no way to Tutor it up. It does have the possibility of a recursive Mindslaver, but again, no way to set it up. I don’t see how this is better than Titans.
#7 – Squirrel Prison
3rd Place Yokohama, Japan – 2/5
Just like the recently pardoned criminal who throws a brick through a jewelry store window to go back in for three hots and a cot, there will always be players who can’t live without prison. The only way the convergence of this deck and a given player could be less surprising is if Mike Pustilnik showed up packing Opposition and squirrels. There is nothing fancy or new-fangled here… If you get set up with a handful of critters and your pivotal enchantment before your opponent reaches their fundamental turn you should win by locking down their permanents.
You should… but the deck feels fragile with little to zero deck manipulation. If Sword of Fire and Ice hits the board and manages to equip a Troll Ascetic, Red Deck does not fulfill the promise of its name but that match is hardly a bye for the Squirrel deck. If your elves and birds find themselves hunted to extinction in the early game the game could go the other way. Hand destruction and Echoing Truth also present serious problems for this deck, which just feels a little antiquated for the format right now.
#6 – Trinity
1st Place San Antonio, Texas – 2/5
This one is another throwback but unlike the last deck I wouldn’t throw this one back. Turn 1 Elf, turn 2 Port and Bird, followed up with Plow Under and/or Tangle Wire should tie up the combo decks while you get to follow up with a Deranged Hermit-spitting Skyshroud Poacher. You have some of the same early game issues with mana creatures vs. Red decks, but you recover with Masticore. With maindeck Living Wish I am somewhat surprised by the lack of Viridian Shaman/Uktabi Orangutans. Also, with the potential for ridiculous mana generation there have been versions of this with Tooth and Nail for Sundering Titans and Darksteel Colossi. Even if you don’t take that route a couple of pricey creatures in the board might be nice… Karn for all those artifact lands, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa for all those non-artifact lands (with a little help from Masticore), or whatever suits your Timmy-like fancy.
#5 – Temporary Solution
4th Place – Grand Prix Boston
3 Waterfront Bouncer
4 Silver Knight
4 Gilded Drake
4 Meddling Mage
3 Exalted Angel
4 Enlightened Tutor
3 Parallax Wave
1 Parallax Tide
1 Energy Flux
1 Engineered Explosives
Sorry Rui, you snooze you lose. You had your chance to name this deck at the Grand Prix. The opportunity to name decks is half the reason I love covering Constructed events. I asked around and no one had a name for Ben Dempsey’s little metagame creation (although I’m sure Dempsey has one, but he has been silent so…)
If you can remember all the way back to Pro Tour: Tokyo, you will recall Zvi’s winning deck from that event was dubbed “The Solution” because it was running main deck Crimson Acolytes against a field that was expected to be dominated by Green/Red beatdown decks. Ben’s deck from Boston seems specially designed to deal with specific threats.
It appears best suited to deal with Red decks, although in a known metagame the Meddling Mages can be very good against anything – remember the White Weenie that could tutor for Ancient Den? Now we can go get Seat for the Meddling Mage on turn 2. Silver Knight does not seem especially good vs. the Cursed Scrolls in Red Deck Wins but will obviously give Goblins fits.
Waterfront Bouncer and Gilded Drake in the main deck are sad times for Reanimator and Welder decks. Hmmm… the deck is about a Peek shy of being Dump Truck and a Rishadan Footpad away from being Pirates. The Parallax Tide/Stifle combo has been very good for at least one player in my area on the Grand Prix Trial scene, although as the field moves in a more combo oriented direction the Tides may want to come in from the side over the Waves.
I don’t know… the deck might not be a bad choice if you can tailor it for your local metagame. I talked with Lucas Glavin about the deck though and one of the reasons I dubbed the deck Temporary Solution is that Ben’s success may have had something to do with the rogueishness of his design. Lucas played Ben twice, once in the Swiss and once in the elimination rounds – the second time with the benefit of deck lists.
The first time they played, Lucas was wary of counter magic that was not there. Had he not given the deck a little extra credit for counters, he may have been able to win the match, which is exactly what he did in the semi-finals when he realized that there was nothing Ben could do about Lucas gaining infinite life. With the deck’s cover blown, it may need to don a new disguise to be successful again. How funny would a little counter magic be?
#4 – Gro-a-Tog
2nd Place San Diego, California – 1/29
How fast can this deck kill you? Apparently it can consistently go off on turns 4 and 5, which seems to be about a turn to late for the format. It can certainly buy some time with Daze and Gush/Armageddon makes me feel all… funny. The only person who loves Quirion Dryad more than me is MichaelJ – if you could only fit some Nimble Mongeese in here Mike would be all over this like white on weenie. Or perhaps Mental Note – it is an instant and feeds the bin for your hungry Tog…
Tog also did well in the Japanese PTQs, but their version were not nearly as much fun as this one. Thanks to Aether Vial you don’t have time to futz around with control cards and this extremely aggro version might be the best way to go if you want to play with your shiny new Player Rewards cards.
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Gilded Drake
1 Seeker of Skybreak
1 Dust Bowl
1 Tradewind Rider
1 Shivan Reef
1 Spike Weaver
2 Viridian Shaman
1 Ravenous Baloth
1 Monk Realist
1 Siege-Gang Commander
Alright. If I am playing in a PTQ this is the deck I want to be playing with. I cannot imagine anything more fun than using Kiki-Jiki to counter a spell with a Mystic Snake that was Vialed into play to counter something else last turn. Good grief though… this deck’s mana! If you can overcome that hurdle this seems like a blast to play and extraordinarily powerful once it gets going.
Siege-Gang Commander is the Deranged Hermit that packs a more lethal punch and Tradewind Rider can come on line early and often. I don’t know what this deck does against infinite life but a single Intruder Alarm would take care of that problem, since you could out infi the enemy with your Mirror Breaker. You could even experience the joy of stacking a Siege-Gang Commander and his minions with Tradewind Rider and Intruder Alarm in play – bouncing your Siege-Gang with the last activation – natch. [I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it. – Knut]
#2 – Teen Titans
1st Place Columbus, Ohio 1/29
You can’t argue with success. The deck won a PTQ and promptly put another player into the Top 8 of Grand Prix Boston. The deck works like Reanimator, but isn’t all-in after the first reanimation spell thanks to the hardest working Goblin in show business. Apparently Gabe Walls was drawing with the deck at Boston in order to discard on turn 1 and then either Reanimate or – with the help of a Mox – Exhume a Sundering Titan on turn 2. Say “goodnight”, Red Deck. The version from Boston added Vampiric Tutor, to the mix which lets you play with silver bullet artifacts you can find on demand.
So did anyone else notice that Oiso doesn’t run Wirewood Savage? You all know how to run with this deck (it’s been around forever), so there is no need to explain. If you need evidence of its Tier 1 status, you need look no further than the man who piloted it to the top of Grand Prix: Boston – Masashi Oiso is easily one of the best two or three players in the game right now.
I was actually championing this deck in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix (and I have the webcast from Nagoya to back me up) but this version seems extremely susceptible to Cranial Extraction. It is sure to be one of the more popular choices this weekend, but what can it do about an Extraction? Is a Death Wish in the sideboard the answer to brain surgeons this weekend? I guess we’ll have to check the Top 8 page next week and find out. In the meanwhile, I have to be going… my Sealed Deck queue is flashing on my tool bar.
I leave you with another New Wave classic without any the embarrassing haircuts of my youth.
You’re gonna take a walk in the rain
And you’re gonna get wet
You’re gonna eat a bowl of chow mein
And be hungry real soon
Are my sources correct
They’re gonna find the Queen is a man
But that Philip don’t care
Lassie will prove that Elvis and her
Had a fleeting affair
Are my sources correct
Are my sources correct
Yes I know they’re correct
I Predict — The Sparks