Five bells rang simultaneously in my head, like alarm clocks going off for days.
That’s what I heard when I saw the spoiler last weekend when all 5 of the enemy fetchlands were spoiled at PAX. To my amazement, my friends giggled with glee as they saw each one spoiled, knowing that all of my was testing for the Pro Tour had just been nullified. This is why I wait until the newest set is spoiled before I go gung-ho crazy in testing for an upcoming event! There is always something that alters the format, and this set is no exception. These 5 reasons just gave me the boost I needed to jump on the playtesting train for PT: Austin.
Basically, the “new” Extended format is going to be very similar to that of last year, with a few exceptions. ‘Goblins’ doesn’t exist anymore, seeing as both Goblin Piledriver and Goblin Warchief both rotated… not that Goblins existed in the first place. Faeries loses Riptide Laboratory, which is a very big deal. Riptide Lab was their key to the late game, and now they just have to rely on Umezawa’s Jitte and Glen Elendra Archmage to take it down. I don’t think it is going to be easy to race decks with Lightning Bolt when you are relying on a 2/2 for 3U to take control of the game.
There are a few more relevant cards that are rotating, but the five fetchlands that were rotating (which was a huge deal) are being replaced. 8th Edition is also rotating, which leaves the format without Ensnaring Bridge. This is very relevant to one deck: Tezzerator. However, without the artifact to protect Tezzeret the Seeker, he becomes extremely vulnerable to all methods of attack, effectively nullifying the archetype altogether. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know 8th Edition was rotating until recently, and have been testing Tezzeret for quite some time. At least now I have a reason to kill myself.
This all brings me to one important point: I have no idea what to play for Pro Tour: Austin. Even though I’ve had plenty of time thus far to prepare and have been brainstorming in hopes of finding the “answer” to the format, everything I’ve been working on has been thrown out the window. Its’ time to start fresh. With this major upheaval, I have to look to the past in order to determine the future. The last Extended season allowed for so many decks to be viable that I really have no idea where to start. The last deck I played in the previous Extended Season was Ranger Zoo (developed by Bill Stark). Here is my old list:
The sideboard here is irrelevant, as half the decks are getting nuked that I was prepared against, including TEPS, Elves, and Astral Slide. These decks no longer existing is going to greatly affect my sideboard, but it will also affect the playability of Gaddock Teeg. The only card that Gaddock Teeg shines against when you are faced against control decks is Engineered Explosives. While this may be a great card to nullify in your opponent’s grip, he might not be reliable enough to start. Luckily, you have a great new addition for the deck: Lightning Bolt. This card alone should help your curve significantly, giving you the ability to drop a two-drop Tarmogoyf on turn 3, or just play a one-drop and a removal spell on turn 2. Mogg Fanatic has become mostly unplayable, so that should open up a few more slots in the maindeck to engineer a better creature package, giving you game both early as well as great tutors for Ranger of Eos in the late game.
The sideboard or maindeck should definitely contain 4 Ethersworn Canonist. Last season, Tomohiro Saito played 4 Canonist maindeck in the last GP of the season, and went on to demolish combo player after combo player to take down the gold. Luckily, combo is much less potent this season, but should still be feared. Aggro decks are traditionally weak to combo decks, but maindecking 4 Ethersworn Canonist could up that percentage greatly, giving you a few more outs to draw before they ritual kill you, or play something silly like Hypergenesis or Restore Balance from cascade. Silence should probably be in the sideboard as well, in order to shut down both Storm as well as Cascade combos. Fortunately, your sideboard cards should easily deal with both of them, leaving them open to attacks from your random dorks.
A modified version of Zoo could look like this:
The sideboard is going to change, no matter what I’m thinking the format will look like. I’ll probably build it right before the tournament begins, based on what I hear is going to be popular, but that is only if I decide to play this deck. The unfortunate drawback from this version of the deck is that you only have nine one-drops. This lets you have consistent turn 1 creatures, but far fewer nut-draws containing three creatures that all cost one, letting you explode on turn 2. This leaves you less vulnerable to the control decks playing Engineered Explosives, but worse off against the combo decks and the mirror.
Qasali Pridemage might end up making the deck at some point, since every deck plays artifacts (Umezawa’s Jitte goes in every aggro and some control decks), but I’d rather have an “I win” card in Ethersworn Canonist against combo decks, forcing them to deal with your threat rather than blowing you out with something like Dragonstorm. Ranger of Eos is there to give you something to do once you get flooded. He may seem rather slow, but he has proved himself in the past, giving me two Top 8s in a row, as well as giving Bill Stark multiple Top 8s, and qualifying one of my friends from Brazil.
Here is what I expect to be the format at Austin:
This format is so open to new things, and I’m sure everyone and their mother is trying to come up with new and hot ideas to make a name for themselves. I have been trying to develop a decent playtest group in order to come up with some serious technology, but so far we haven’t really had any ground-breaking ideas. I can’t talk about everything in these articles, but I’ll give you an idea of the thought processes we’ve been going through as far as deckbuilding and metagaming is concerned. We have a few good ideas brewing that we hope to share with the world come PT: Austin, but I have to keep them secret for now.
As far as what we’re concerned about facing, the above archetypes are what we expect to be major players, but that could easily change if any tournament gives us differing results prior to the event, such as a $5K or something similar. Rock always shows up somewhere, and Doran is usually not far behind. Expect some BGx decks to make a showing, sporting Putrid Leech, Maelstrom Pulse, and Thoughtseize, as those cards are all great in an open format. The new Fetchlands make just about any archetype possible, and nothing should be overlooked.
Affinity is, and always will be, a player in any environment where it is legal. Wizards has printed so many hoser cards for the archetype, yet it still continues to dominate lower level as well as major events. Just last year it won several PTQs, as well as two copies making Top 8 at the Grand Prix where LSV won playing TEPS. The robots are strong, and you should not forget about them, lest you be overrun by Modular tricks and Cranial Plating. Luckily, Zoo can play such hosers as Kataki, War’s Wage and Ancient Grudge, but you should not skimp on the sideboard hate at a tournament such as this one. I prefer Ancient Grudge, as it is stellar against all decks that play a ton of artifacts (like Tezzeret or some other Artifact-based control or combo deck), aside from just being good against Affinity like Kataki.
Narrow sideboard cards are ones you should try to avoid, unless they just completely turn around an unfavorable matchup that you expect to be popular. However, if you expect one of your unfavorable matchups to be popular, likely you have chosen the wrong deck for that particular tournament. Playing something like Circle of Protection: Red is okay, because it hoses a particular archetype completely, and is something that Red has virtually no way to deal with, aside from splashing a color. But that was last season, and I don’t expect burn to be a good deck, nor do I expect pro players to come to a major event sporting Lava Spike. The icing on the cake is that you no longer have the safety net of Ensnaring Bridge to sit behind when you’re trying to race a deck like Zoo.
Pro Tour: Austin should be a great tournament that features some of the game’s greatest players striving to come out on top. With such an open format, hopefully there won’t be six copies of the same deck in the Top 8 like last year in Berlin. I don’t think there is any ridiculous combo deck like Elves to dominate the format, so hopefully there will be some innovative ideas for the following PTQ season that starts in the Winter. I’m still unsure of what I’ll be playing, but I expect nothing less from myself than Day 2, and I will be disappointed if I don’t cash. This will be my first Pro Tour in over 3 years, and I don’t expect to blow this opportunity by having old technology that gets demolished round after round by the experienced pros. I have some good heads together on this project, so hopefully we’ll all do well and I’ll be able to write about it in the coming months.
Until more of Zendikar is spoiled, I can’t really write anything about Standard. Although, I do believe that Vampires are going to be a real Constructed deck, since they have printed a 2/2 for B with a minor drawback as well as multiple ridiculous 2/2’s for BB that are going to be very fair for a slow Constructed environment. If Alara Block is any indication, then an aggressive deck with disruption should be able to get your opponent before they have a chance to set up. Wizards is making sure to give Black and Blue plenty of ways to deal with Great Sable Stag, so don’t expect it to be a foil to those strategies like it was to Faeries for the past few months.
With three playable Vampires costing two or less, expect Vampire Nocturnus to jump in value. He’s a solid body that gives your creatures a huge boost, as well as evasion, just so long as the top card of your deck is Black. Fetchlands give you added value here, as you can shuffle away cards on top that you don’t want to draw, and also have a second chance at hitting a Black card for Vampire Nocturnus’s ability. The enemy fetchlands, as well as Arcane Sanctum and Savage Lands, should make BW or BG aggro a viable deck archetype. Tidehollow Sculler is an amazing bear here, and you also get premium removal via Path to Exile. If BG is the color of choice, you get access to Putrid Leech and Maelstrom Pulse, as those two cards are just above the curve. There could be a few more goodies yet to be spoiled for the deck, but I am excited just from what has been given to us so far.
I’ll be checking the spoiler every day in anticipation, and I suggest you do the same. If you are testing for Austin, then the more information you have sooner can only help in your decision making processes. Next week I’ll try to go in-depth a bit more about the Extended format, since it will be relevant for PTQs in the Winter, as well as anyone testing for Austin. Now, off to the Bachelor Party!
strong sad on MOL