I used to work in a restaurant, and every now and then the chef would make his special soup. He’d clear out all the produce before it got old, tossing it into the pot, and when you asked him what the soup actually was, he’d tell you, “Everything but the kitchen sink.”
Welcome to the most diverse Extended format in the history of the game. Though Mr. Teeth remains at large, you need to worry about getting locked out of the game by Isochron Scepter, and you must avoid getting steamrolled by an explosive Affinity draw, there are very few real constraints on deckbuilding. Consequently, it seems like you can put in your time with just about any deck, tune it to a razor-sharp edge, and pull off an impressive record.
Osyp Lebedowicz recently put Goblins back on the metagame map. In the spirit of highlighting the underdogs, or rogues, or whatever you want to call them, I’m going to examine some of the more interesting decklists I’ve seen lately. In the interest of space and time, I’m only going to focus on the three major matchups in the format — Boros Deck Wins, Affinity, and Psychatog.
We’ll get things started with a classic archetype. People love White Weenie, and when a format’s card pool makes such a deck even remotely possible, people will play it.
- 4 White Knight
- 4 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
- 4 Savannah Lions
- 4 Silver Knight
- 3 Commander Eesha
- 2 Troll Ascetic
- 2 Hand of Honor
- 4 Watchwolf
Commander Eesha? You’ve got to be kidding me. I guess that’s why this deck didn’t make it past eighth place. What does that card do again, anyway?
It has protection from creatures.
It only costs four mana for two power and four toughness.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad. Think about it. Commander Eesha blocks flying Psychatogs and Cranial-Plated Ornithopters all day long. It’s immune to Gempalm Incinerator, Grim Lavamancer, and Flametongue Kavu. Plus, its casting cost leaves it just out of range of Smother.
Worship is another interesting card choice in Nick’s deck. Worship basically reads “your opponent can’t win by dealing damage” thanks to Troll Ascetic and an army of Knights and Samurais. Similarly, Armadillo Cloak and Umezawa’s Jitte are very good when you have so many creatures that can shrug off targeted removal.
Let’s start with Boros Deck Wins. Your mana base is less painful than theirs, and Chrome Mox gives the White/Green deck an edge in speed. Grim Lavamancer and burn might be a problem in the early game, but White Weenie should be able to tie up the board with men, and eventually put Armadillo Cloak or Worship on either Silver Knight or Troll Ascetic to carry the day. It doesn’t look like things change much after sideboarding.
Next up, we have Affinity. Paying the real mana cost for creatures is a drag, and so White Weenie suffers. Unless a timely Armadillo Cloak or Worship saves the day, chances are that the artifact deck will win on the back of speed and tempo. The sideboard changes things dramatically. Suddenly, White Weenie gains access to a first-turn kill thanks to Chrome Mox and Kataki, Wager-of-War-Against-Affinity. Overall, I think this match-up favors the White deck a little bit, thanks to the board.
Last, there’s Psychatog. Between White Knight, Hand of Honor, and the Commander, you pack nine creatures with protection-from-Smother and protection-from-Psychatog. Unfortunately, that’s still not enough. The Blue/Black version of Psychatog will counter threats until it finds Wonder, and swing for lethal damage in the air. Commander Eesha will either get countered or bounced. Green/dredge-based Tog decks are even more problematic, since they have access to Pernicious Deed. Pithing Needle helps combat this somewhat, but this still looks like a tough matchup for the White guys.
As a side note, True Believer is a great call for the sideboard – it gives you some much-needed help against Chris McDaniel’s Heartbeat of Spring/Mind’s Desire combo deck. It’s also nice that the Believer prevents Orim’s Chant from targeting you.
Twenty-two lands is a little light for a deck that has twelve spells that cost more than two mana. Squeezing in an extra land – possibly a Flooded Strand, if you’re worried about mana flood – would be nice. I’d also consider dropping a Chrome Mox. They’re great acceleration, but drawing two in the early game is really rough for a deck devoid of card drawing.
I’d also drop a White Knight for a third Hand of Honor. This would help make the deck a little more resilient against Cabal Therapy. Four Jittes seem a little high. They’re terrible against control decks, and you only want to draw one at a time. I’d use the extra slot freed up by removing a Jitte for that twenty-third land or for a third Troll Ascetic.
The only sideboard card that bothers me is Sylvan Safekeeper. I can’t really figure out when you’d want to use this guy. The mana base for your deck is already pretty tight. The most obvious use for the Safekeeper that I can think of is against a deck with lots of creature removal, like Boros Deck Wins… But Boros can easily target the Safekeeper repeatedly with Lava Dart and Grim Lavamancer. The Safekeeper also protects your guys against Psychatog’s removal spells, but that’s only relevant against the versions that don’t run Pernicious Deed.
I’d drop the Safekeepers for Purge, which is good against all Psychatog decks — plus helps sure up the Affinity match. However, If the Seismic Assault-based CAL deck gets more popular, then maybe Disenchant is better than Purge. You want to have an out against Solitary Confinement. Disenchant would also help against Scepter-Chant and Heartbeat/Desire.
One last aside: What if you took the deck in a different direction and focused it around Suppression Field? Have you seen how many cards in this format are hosed by the Field? (Mike Mason has a few ideas… – The Ferrett) It seems like Suppression Field would make the deck much more resilient against control, and would grant it some free wins against decks that are too focused on fetch, pain, and cycling lands. The only deck that doesn’t get wrecked by the Field is Heartbeat/Desire — and the only cards in your deck hosed by the Field are the Trolls and Jittes.
Let’s stick with the beatdown theme, and turn to the classic Red/Green combination.
(It’s also worth mentioning that Shaun Mack took 7th at a Charleston, West Virginia PTQ on 11/20/05 with an identical decklist.)
This list looks like it came straight out of Standard, circa 2002. It’s only missing Raging Kavu and Kavu Titan. These small changes go a long way, though. Kird Ape acts as a super-powered Jackal Pup, and Magma Jet adds a way for the deck to smooth out its draws. There aren’t any tricky things going on with this sort of deck, so let’s skip straight to matchups.
This deck stomps over Boros Deck Wins. Virtually every card in R/G Aggro is a nightmare for Boros. There are a whopping twenty-two cards that can go two-for one or better against the Red/White deck. Violent Eruption and Phantom Centaur are especially nasty in this match. Add those to the fat butt of Kird Ape – plus the deck’s practically pain-free mana base – and it seems like you’d be about a 70/30 favorite against Boros. Sam beat Boros Deck Wins, piloted by none other than Patrick Sullivan, in the finals of his Qualifier. Coincidence? I think not.
Once again, though, the sideboard changes things considerably. Artifact Mutation and Flametongue Kavu really do a number on Affinity‘s men. Pithing Needle could also come in, but I’m not sure how you’d find room to bring in twelve cards. The Needle is reactive, whereas Flametongue Kavu and Artifact Mutation provide proactive answers — after all, they double as and win conditions. Overall, this matchup seems pretty close, probably favoring R/G by a little.
Against Psychatog, R/G Aggro has both the early men and the burn to do the job. Protection from black makes Phantom Centaur huge, though dodging countermagic to cast it is asking a lot. Unfortunately, this deck has no real answer to a flying Psychatog, or to a Tog that hits play after Pernicious Deed clears the board. Pithing Needle helps significantly after game one, but it’s a tough match.
The maindeck looks very solid. It has good men and good burn. It is what it is.
I’m not too crazy about the Pyrostatic Pillars in the sideboard, since they won’t be enough to stop Heartbeat/Desire decks. Plus, you run just three copies, reducing your chances to draw one in time. You might as well run Naturalize in that slot, for the same reasons I recommend that you put Disenchant in the White Weenie deck.
To arrive at the next deck, simply add Black and White to the Red and Green, stir, and voilÃ !
Just looking at this collection of cards gives me a headache. You’d better think very carefully about what land to grab when you crack a fetch land. This deck is similar to the one that David Williams used to take twenty-second place at Pro Tour: Los Angeles.
At its heart, this deck is designed to abuse Bob the Builder (Dark Confidant) (a.k.a. Bob Maher, the man of a thousand faces — Ben). Sensei’s Divining Top ensures that Bob won’t eat too big a chunk of your life total, while Armadillo Cloak replenishes you. You have an incredibly potent removal suite, consisting of Terminate, Vindicate, and Flametongue Kavu. With Pithing Needle in the main deck, you run some of the most flexible answer cards every printed.
The name says it all: Boros Deck Wins. Your mana base is super-painful, and you’re counting on Bob to do his thing. Loss of life is how the Zoo operates, and Boros has a boatload of burn. That’s bad times for all the animals in the Zoo. On top of burn, Boros Deck Wins has land destruction to worry about. Molten Rain will always Shock you and there’s a good chance that it plus Pillage lock you out of a color entirely. Another problem is that you only have eighteen creatures – none of them with big butts — and so the Boros deck can burn them all away. And sideboarding doesn’t offer any miracles for the Zoo in this match.
Game one against Affinity is difficult, but winnable. Pithing Needle offers excellent virtual card advantage and Flametongue Kavu is a fantastic answer to Myr Enforcer. Still, it’s the same old challenge when you have free creatures to deal with. After sideboarding you add the mighty Kataki, Disenchant, and Naturalize, turning the matchup into a rout.
At last! We have a deck that matches up favorably against Psychatog. You have Duress for early disruption, and it’s followed by fifteen creatures that cost two mana or less. You have an impressive eleven maindeck answers to Psychatog between Terminate, Vindicate, and Pithing Needle. Your sideboard provides even more disruption in the forms of Cabal Therapy, Gerrard’s Verdict, and Suppression Field.
Thanks to the mana base, virtually any changes are possible. David Williams played two copies of Umezawa’s Jitte in his version, which seems like a good idea. Dropping an Armadillo Cloak plus something else for them couldn’t hurt.
What you really need is some additional help against Boros Deck Wins. Cramming a fourth Flametongue Kavu into the sideboard is a good start. David Williams also ran a lone Mystic Enforcer — which, as a bona-fide fatty, helps a lot against Boros as well.
Even though this deck runs only eighteen creatures, it’s worth testing Cabal Therapy in place of Duress. The Therapy is much better against creature-heavy decks, and it also provides a way to kill the Confidant before he kills you.
Let’s have a look at one last deck before I end this article.
In the spirit of claiming that a deck type isn’t really dead, I present you with this little number.
Muddle the Mixture is tech. This archetype needs to do two things to function: Get fatties into the graveyard and reanimate them. Muddle the Mixture helps accomplish both these goals, since you can, since you can use it to tutor up Glimpse the Unthinkable, Life / Death, or Stitch Together. Glimpse serves the double duty of putting cards into your graveyard and helping you to reach threshold for Stitch Together.
There are some other interesting synergies going on here too. Platinum Angel is an “I win” card against decks without removal. Against decks with removal, Muddle the Mixture can grab Lightning Greaves. Platinum Angel prevents you from losing the game at zero life, which can happen regularly due to your painful mana base combined with the life loss from Life/Death.
Let’s not forget about Sundering Titan. With Ravnica dual lands running rampant right now, the Titan is more powerful than it has even been before in Extended. To clarify the rules quickly: Ravnica duals are non-basic lands that have basic land types. This leaves them especially vulnerable to the Titan — plus, one dual land can be targeted twice by the same Titan (for instance, you can choose Overgrown Tomb as both a Swamp and a Forest), virtually ensuring that the Titan will blow up your opponent’s territory while leaving your mana base intact.
Boros can’t beat Reanimator‘s best draw, which features a turn 2 Akroma, Angel of Wrath. However, lots of Reanimator‘s average draws are pretty iffy. Boros can start destroying lands on turn 3 and Kataki puts additional pressure on both Chrome Mox and Reanimator‘s several artifact creatures. Boros can chump-block Sundering Titan for several turns while unleashing a torrent of burn spells.
Affinity is an awesome matchup for Reanimator. Not only do you have the possibility of a quick Akroma win, but most Affinity deck can’t kill Platinum Angel during game one. Reanimator can still lose with a slow draw – especially if Affinity has the nuts – but that’s just the case with any deck against Affinity.
Sideboarding changes little. Affinity might have some sort of answer to Platinum Angel after boarding, but Reanimator replaces Sundering Titan with Phantom Nishoba and Duress with Darkblast, solidifying this match even further.
Psychatog is a major problem for Reanimator. If you can manage to get Akroma or Sundering Titan reanimated on turn 2, you have a chance of winning. If you make your move any later than that, you can count on some form of counterspell stopping you. You only have eight ways to reanimate fatties, which is far outnumbered by Psychatog’s counterspells. Plus, Tog has plenty of card drawing to dig for countermagic and bounce. It’s hard to envision a more frustrating match-up.
Jimmy did well with his deck, but I can’t get beyond the fact that he played only twenty mana sources. Thirst for Knowledge and Muddle the Mixture are so important. You really want don’t want to miss any land drops. If you get to a midgame, your plans is to reanimate with Muddle the Mixture backup, or use Muddle the Mixture to get and cast a reanimation spell in the same turn. I’d really like to see an extra two lands make it into the deck, to make that more reliable.
That lone Plains also bothers me. This deck demands both double-Black and double-Blue immediately, so having a land that produces neither can really mess you up. I say swap out the White and go with Green. Replace the Plains with an Overgrown Tomb and change the fetchlands to four Polluted Delta and one Bloodstained Mire. This enables you to run Naturalize instead of Disenchant in your sideboard. Your mana base becomes that much more reliable, and in a pinch, you can imprint Life / Death on a Chrome Mox to cast Naturalize.
Thirst for Knowledge seems too slow for this deck. You want to be discarding from your hand as soon as possible to ensure that you can reanimate on turn 2 or 3. With that in mind, it seems like Cabal Therapy, Hapless Researcher, or Ideas Unbound would be better choice in this slot.
You could also take Reanimator in a completely different direction. I think the best alternative is to focus on Stinkweed Imp/dredge. While Glimpse can reliably set you up for reanimation on turn 3, it serves virtually no purpose other than to Millstone your opponent. Stinkweed Imp offers some significant advantages. First, it does a better job of setting you up for reanimation on turn 2, even if Stitch Together is doing the dirty work. Between Careful Study/Putrid Imp/Cabal Therapy on turn 1, breaking a fetchland, and dredging the Imp back on the second turn, you’ll have quick threshold. Stinkweed Imp also affects the board, and drawing multiple Stinkweeds is not as bad as drawing multiple Glimpses.
White Weenie/Green. R/G Aggro. Zoo Two. Reanimator. They’re out there. They’re showing up at PTQs. What surprises me the most about this lineup is the ability of other aggressive decks to survive in a world of Affinity. In last year’s Extended, Affinity made all other aggressive decks unplayable… With Goblins being the notable exception. It seems we’re in a better place and we can thank Wizards of the Coast. The combination of banning Disciple of the Vault/Aether Vial plus the printing of Kataki, War’s Wage has opened up space in the metagame.
I also want to thank Wizards for the big Extended rotation and for Ravnica. The “loss” of Wasteland and Rishadan Port, combined with the printing of Ravnica’s dual lands, has made the environment a deck builder’s paradise.
It’s a great time to be a Magic player.
Thanks for reading, and congrats to Nick, Sam, Shaun, Michael, and Jimmy for their PTQ performances,