Constructed Criticism – Diving Into Dark Depths

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Tuesday, January 26th – Extended is probably the best format in Magic at the moment, offering tons of diverse archetypes that are all playable and powerful. Top 8s across the country have offered tons of ideas for new archetypes, as well as exciting twists on old ones…

There was a Standard $5K and an Extended PTQ this weekend in Atlanta, and I attended both. However, I was not very excited about Standard for this weekend… I was really looking forward to the Extended PTQ. With the success I’ve been having in the Extended format, I think that I am learning a lot about how it is changing, and what decks attack the format the best. I was a big advocate of Zoo until last week when the format was completely overturned, but we’ll talk about that later. First up, the Atlanta $5K ended up being a blast, even though I went in with literally no sleep. Props to Phoenix Games and Casey Hogan for doing such a great job running a smooth event, and also for picking an awesome location. More events should happen in hotel ballrooms so that the hotel gives you discounts and you actually get some good sleep and a reasonable room rate. The event started with about 250 players, with me scrambling all the way up until the last minute to get my deck together. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to play, but I knew I had made up my mind after reading this message from Gerry Thompson on Facebook:

You should probably play this in the $5k…

3 Bloodghast
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Malakir Bloodwitch
2 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Terminate
4 Blightning
4 Sign in Blood
3 Earthquake

4 Akoum Refuge
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Mountain
11 Swamp

3 Mind Rot
3 Dragon’s Claw
1 Bloodghast
1 Duress
1 Fleshbag Marauder
2 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Black Knight

Ideally, I would like another Duress, Mind Rot, Dragon’s Claw, and Fleshbag. If you don’t expect any Mono Red, then you can cut the Claws. You’re not the worst against them anyway.

Jund without Putrid Leech
+ 1 Bloodghast, 2 Siege-Gang Commander, 3 Mind Rot
– 4 Lightning Bolt, 2 Terminate

Chose to draw, and don’t cast Bloodghast if you think they have Blightning. Preserve your life total since they can kill you pretty quickly out of nowhere. If possible, make them discard before you play something a Nighthawk, because it makes it harder for them to make a decision, and then if they have Bloodbraid Elf on turn 3 or 4, they probably don’t get any value out of it.

+ 4 Black Knight, 2 Siege-Gang Commander, possibly Fleshbag or Duress
– 3 Bloodghast, then probably Sign in Bloods

+ 3 Mind Rot, 1 Duress, 1 Fleshbag Marauder, 2 Siege-Gang Commander, 1 Bloodghast
– 3 Earthquake, 4 Lightning Bolt, 1 Terminate

They should be bringing in Nighthawks and Bloodwitches a la LSV. If that’s the case, maybe you want to keep in another Terminate or something, but I’ve been fine with that configuration.

Would love more Siege-Gangs main as they’re awesome versus those three decks, but I don’t want a ton of fives or red cards, and the matchups slow down a lot post board.

Versus White decks, I tend to keep in the Red removal for Devout Lightcaster and White Knight, while probably removing Nighthawks and Bloodghasts so you basically have nothing they can remove with Lightcaster or Celestial Purge.

Bloodghast sucks versus real creature decks, but is good versus Gatekeeper, Blightning, and you kind of need it versus control decks, so I think you need them main.

I know that Gerry and I have had our disputes in the past, but I think he is a changed man (and I am not quite the idiot I used to be). At the last few tournaments we’ve both attended, he has been very courteous and straightforward to both me and my wife, and he even hung out with Kali in the PTQ area at Worlds (since they were both playing). I really didn’t expect anything like this, because I was unsure of his feelings towards me, but now I know that he at least finds me competent enough to send me a solid-looking decklist. I know I’m not special, and he didn’t send me this decklist exclusively, but we did have an extensive conversation about it afterwards, as well as the metagame in general. I liked his ideas.

After reading this message, I was intrigued. I knew about the recent success of Vampires, and knew they would probably be popular. This list in particular was built in order to help beat up on the mirror, with cheap and better removal, as well as a more efficient discard spell in Blightning. Additionally, you were better off against Jund because you didn’t play cards like Vampire Hexmage and Vampire Lacerator (not that everyone played this guy), and Blightning could help take away some of their mid-game pressure. Essentially, this deck is BR Control with a Vampire subtheme, since Malakir Bloodwitch is the only card in your deck that really cares about other Vampires being in play. Being a large monster with protection from White is pretty strong by itself, and the life you drain from the opponent is just icing on the cake. The Earthquakes and Siege-Gang Commanders added a bit of depth to the deck, giving you outs to situations from which normal Vampire decks could not escape (I’m looking at your Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede).

The Red cards in the deck are very easy to cast with the 12 dual lands at your disposal. Even though eight of them always enter the battlefield tapped, they both have small advantages on top of being dual lands. The Crumbling Necropolis was chosen over Savage Lands so that you could pay for the U on Quenchable Fire, which is pretty popular from the Red decks. Additionally, the life you gain from Akoum Refuge is very relevant. It virtually counteracts the drawback on Sign in Blood, and acts positively against the aggressive matchups. Blue-White decks have been playing Sejiri Refuge for similar reasons, but I think the Akoum Refuges are better for this deck since you are dealing a decent amount of damage to yourself via Earthquake and Sign in Blood.

The creature base was built to attack aggressive decks (aside from Bloodghast). Gatekeeper of Malakir and Vampire Nighthawk can both give aggressive decks a headache, which is pretty important in a format where Bloodbraid Elf exists. Malakir Bloodwitch doesn’t die to many of the format’s popular removal spells, but is very vulnerable to Maelstrom Pulse and Bituminous Blast from Jund. However, if you can use your removal early and discard in the late-game, they might be forced to discard their better removal against you. Mind Rots and Duresses come in against them, and play a very important role of shutting down their ridiculous removal. Earthquake was surprisingly good against them, since a lot of the time it functioned as a Fireball. However, it was very weak when Sprouting Thrinax was in play, and often I was forced to Lightning Bolt the Thrinax before casting Earthquake.

While I went 7-2 with this deck, I didn’t feel like the Jund matchup was as solid as it should be. My first loss came against Jund in round 3, where my opponent mulliganed into Turn 2 Leech, Turn 3 Thrinax, and Turns 4 and 5 Bloodbraid Elf with Blightning or removal attached. I don’t think many decks can beat this draw, but I almost did if I had not misplayed. At one point I used a Lightning Bolt to kill a Sprouting Thrinax, but I topdecked enough burn that would have been lethal had I just sent it at his dome. Game 2 his draw was equally ridiculous, but this time there was no chance of me coming back. His Blightnings hit relevant cards instead of Bloodghasts, and I got stuck on 3 lands with no Sign in Blood in sight. While Jund has seen a decrease in popularity, I don’t think this deck is right for a Standard format where Jund is the most-played deck. Their removal and discard is just too good against you, and even Goblin Ruinblaster can give you headaches. I really liked the deck, and think it could be a real contender if the next set gives it a few more tools to work with. If you have any questions about the deck, let me know in the forums.

Extended is what I really want to talk about. It is probably the best format in Magic at the moment, offering tons of diverse archetypes that are all playable and powerful. Top 8s across the country have offered tons of ideas for new archetypes, as well as exciting twists on old ones. I know I’ve talked about GerryT a lot, but I can’t really help it. The man builds good decks, and his latest Extended concoction is no exception. It combines the powerful combos of Dark Depths and Thopter Foundry into one exciting package. Here is the list with which he won the last Magic Online PTQ:

When I first saw this list, there were a few cards that seemed to stand out to me, but mostly I just didn’t like Doom Blade. I know that you can tutor for it, but you already have Slaughter Pact and Into the Roil as cards you can tutor for to get rid of problematic creatures. However, after having tested with the deck on Magic Online, I would always revert back to this list. No card I changed seemed like it was better than what was currently there. I heard about it too late, but apparently having a singleton Darkblast in the sideboard was good in the mirror, since you could tutor for it to kill Dark Confidant. I don’t know what I would have cut for it, but I do know that I used almost every single card in my sideboard multiple times, which is really all you can ask of a sideboard. Hurkyl’s Recall bought me just enough time against Affinity, as well as locked down a mirror match where he had Thopter Sword going, which let me get in there with a 20/20. Tormod’s Crypt only came in once, but it was against Dredge, and it did singlehandedly win me Game 2 of our match, so I can’t really complain.

After doing well in a few events, I had made up my mind that this was the deck I wanted to play. I immediately began asking every friend of mine if I could borrow cards for the deck, to which most replied either, “I’m already playing it,” or “I’ve already loaned it out.” This was pretty discouraging, as I couldn’t even borrow a copy from a friend who owned 8 Dark Depths. I ended up making a deal with some guys to loan me a deck as long as I could buy the Dark Depths. I did so, and now I own 4 Dark Depths but none of the other cards. Hopefully Dark Depths will go up in price.

After getting my deck together the night before the Extended tournament, we went out to a bar with some friends. It was a local pub, with a great atmosphere and waitresses that were really nice. One guy in our group (nicknamed Johnny Touchdown, Israeli PopStar), felt like buying everyone rounds (ding), so I got to have a few shots of Patron along with my Newcastles. Since our friend Phil Smith had split the prize from the $5K with the others in the Top 8 for about $500, we forced him to buy everyone a shot of Jack Daniels. I’m not the hugest fan of Jack Daniels, but I did one anyway because it was free, and everyone else was doing it. Can’t really complain. After drinking for about 3 hours and eating amazing food (Johnny Touchdown chose this place strictly because of the food), we headed back to the hotel. Will Cruse passed out in the car, and ended up sleeping there since he literally couldn’t move. It was a good night.

I woke up the next morning around 9am ready for the tournament. I would normally do a PTQ report here, but I accidentally lost my notes. I’ve also done a lot of tournament reports lately, so I’ll just give you a bit of insight about the Thopter Depths deck in general. I ended up getting 3rd in the tournament after losing to a friend playing the mirror match in the semifinals (congrats Tim Bonneville). He ended up beating All In Red in the finals where he lost the die roll, and his opponent played Turn 1 Blood Moon. Luckily he drew his singleton Into the Roil, as well as a Swamp and a Chrome Mox for Blue. This let him have one turn to combo with Dark Depths, which his opponent couldn’t handle. Game 2 was functionally the same, except this time he didn’t get his Into the Roil. He just played Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek after the Turn 1 Blood Moon via Basic Swamp and Chrome Mox again, to which his opponent had no real answer. His opponent did manage to stick a Deus of Calamity, but it was undone via Slaughter Pact, which bought him enough time to get his combo out.

This deck has some amazing power, and I don’t think any other deck in the format can really compete on a fair level. I often tell people that playing this deck is like playing Legacy against Extended, which is just unfair. Aggro decks and Burn have a shot at racing the deck… sometimes. It is almost impossible to beat the nut draw of Urborg into Thoughtseize, followed by Dark Depths into Hexmage. I have only had that draw a few times, but it is certainly sweet when you do have it. Most decks can’t really handle a 20/20 on turn 2. Thopter Foundry gives your deck a bit more reach, and keeps you from losing to a single Extirpate or Cranial Extraction for your Vampire Hexmages. It also gives you a way to beat the mirror and Faeries, since neither can handle Thopter Foundry very well. Extirpate is MVP after sideboarding, keeping the Sword of the Meek plan in line. However, if backed by a bit of hand disruption, it is still very difficult to break up the combo. It is much more important in the mirror than getting a 20/20 to stick, since the 1/1 fliers can block him all day long.

After this weekend, expect every Dark Depths deck to have Thopter Foundry in it, since it is clearly the best version of the deck. I don’t think any other deck in the format can hold its own against this deck as far as power level is concerned. You have the most efficient spells and the best disruption combined with two of the format’s best combo cards. You even have the best card draw and tutoring in the format at your disposal, letting you have a toolbox sideboard to deal with whatever might give you a problem. Cards to note that I considered sideboarding were Shadow of Doubt, Darkblast, more Chalice of the Void, Negate, and the 4th Duress and Deathmark. Depending on how the metagame shifts, I think that all of those cards could be considered in the sideboard. I really want to move the Ghost Quarter to the maindeck, since I think this deck is growing rapidly in popularity. I might just cut one of the Islands, but they are too important against decks with Blood Moon. I might just cut something for a 25th land though, since it seemed like I needed more lands all day. With the 8 Legendary lands and Tolaria West, it almost feels like you are playing only 16 lands and 4 Chrome Mox.

If you plan on playing a PTQ with this deck anytime soon, do it before everyone figures out how to beat it. At the moment, most people are at a loss, including myself. There is an Online PTQ on Tuesday morning, and I will probably be playing this deck unless I figure out some solid way to fight against it. Otherwise, I’ll probably be making 20/20’s on Turn 2, and you probably should too.

Thanks for reading.

strong sad on MTGO