Last week, I used data from Magic Online Daily Events to approximate the Extended metagame. This week, I used results from the same type of tournaments
so that I could clearly show what’s changing among Extended’s successful decks. The above chart uses data from the eleven Extended Daily Events from
January 30-February 5. The Change in Popularity column is the increase in the portion of winning players piloting the deck compared to last
week. Whenever the increase or decrease was smaller than a percentage point, I rounded it to zero.
The top three positions go to the same decks as last week, although U/W Control is no longer outperforming the rest of the field. Faeries is not only
the most played deck, it also went undefeated more often than any other two archetypes combined. If you want to win an Extended tournament any time
soon, you’d better be prepared to beat Faeriesâ€”but this is no surprise to anyone who’s been following Extended lately.
The biggest story of the week relates to the U/G Prismatic Omen archetype. Wargate decks have had a surge of popularity and also remarkable success.
Four out of the seven players who placed with Wargate this week did so with a 4-0 record. Compare this to the nonwhite version of R/U/G Omen that had
more players but zero undefeated records. Last week’s statistics hinted that Wargate was the better build of the deck, but now there’s enough data to
say so with relative confidence. Many players swear by the R/U/G build, but I encourage them to try Wargate at least for comparison’s sake.
Here we have a deck that cannot deal damage to the opponent unless Prismatic Omen is in play. This is a big problem, even with Ponder, Preordain, and
Halimar Depths to find it. Wargate serves as additional copies of Prismatic Omen so that coming up with one will never be a struggle. Wargate can also
search for a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or a business spell if Omen is already in play, which is convenient, since extra copies of Prismatic Omen
happen to do absolutely nothing. Being able to search up extra copies of Valakut is critical against decks with Tectonic Edge like Faeries and U/W.
Adding a few white lands is a small price to pay for a card that fits the deck so perfectly. Adding white also grants access to some of the most
powerful defensive sideboard cards in the format, including Day of Judgment and Path to Exile.
Notice how strong sad doesn’t feel obligated to play the full four Scapeshifts. I’ve even seen lists with no Scapeshifts. The fact that Wargate
makes it easy to get two or three Valakuts in play means it’s very realistic to win the game just by playing lands. Changing the combo from two cards
to one card brings the deck to a whole, new level. Scapeshift sits in your hand until you have seven lands and a Prismatic Omen, so even trimming one
copy makes things a lot less clunky.
I find R/U/G to be too fragile and inconsistent, especially now that everyone knows what the deck can do. Wargate takes away much of the randomness
involved in assembling the combo. It also makes alternative win conditions realistic because one copy of a Titan (Sun Titan in strong sad’s sideboard)
is a simple and easy way to close a game after reaching nine mana. I’ve seen R/U/G with Primal Command for this reason, but Wargate is much more direct
and plays better with the deck’s plan A.
A new deck of my own creation made up a fair portion of this week’s metagame.
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Rhox War Monk
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Baneslayer Angel
In all fairness, there wasn’t a whole lot of “creation” involved, as this is essentially a pile of the thirty-six best Bant cards in the format. Mythic
has a lot of great things going for it, but Lotus Cobra isn’t one of them. Neither are the cards that can’t be cast unless Lotus Cobra is in play. This
is a more balanced deck that can afford to play removal (Bant Charm is fantastic) and make good use of efficient weenie creatures like Qasali
Starting the game with a Noble Hierarch or a Birds of Paradise feels unfair in this format. Bant may not be the fastest deck to win, but it’s the
fastest deck to get on its feet. Other decks need time to ramp their lands, fill up their graveyard with a Fauna Shaman, or build a critical mass of
creatures to make their tribal cards useful. By the time they’re ready to play, the Bant player has a big exalted attacker and is sitting back on
permission and removal. I’ve never been one to honor a “no rush twenty minutes” request.
Even though my focus today is Magic Online, I should mention that one of the strengths of Bant is lost in live tournaments where Mirrodin Besieged is
legal. Removal spells in Faeries include Peppersmoke, Disfigure, Agony Warp, Smother, Grasp of Darkness, but rarely Doom Blade. What do those removal
spells have in common? None of them kill Baneslayer Angel. Only Grasp kills Rhox War Monk. Go for the Throat won’t kill Bant, but it will change the
value of Baneslayer Angel against black decks.
This week online, Bant outperformed Mythic by a fair margin. Also, the fact that I was only responsible for one out of Bant’s three 4-0s is an
indication that there’s potential for it to be a player in the future.
Here’s a deck I’ve seen twice in the last two weeks, both times undefeated:
vizion1337’s decklist is the same 75 cards that Nick Spagnolo suggested in his article on TCGPlayer.com. Much like Bant, it’s hard to see this deck
replacing the linear strategies like Faeries and Scapeshift as one of the format’s dominant decks. Also like Bant, however, it’s easy to see how a
strong player who knows the deck and its matchups could win with this.
This U/R Counterburn deck (named Demigod Control on the chart) has a lot going for it. It features efficient removal and permission along with many of
the format’s powerhouse cards in Cryptic Command, Vendilion Clique, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It has flexible slots to make choices based on the
metagame and unexpected cards that will take games away from overconfident opponents. Finally, anyone playing this much burn will never find themselves
in a hopeless situation because there’s always the option to go straight for the throat and end the game.
Extended is truly wide open. I never imagined that I would have to cut off a list of successful archetypes at twenty. In reality, there have
been over thirty distinct decks placing in these Daily Events over the past two weeks, and I’ve even lumped together decks which could be considered
different. For example, not only is Red Deck Wins one of thirty playable strategies, but red players can splash white, green, or black; they can
maindeck Volcanic Fallout or Tattermunge Maniac, and they can sideboard Devastating Summons or Cunning Sparkmage.
This openness is what makes a deck like Bant possible, but it also makes it impossible to get perfect. I started with Rhox War Monks and ran into Wall
of Omens. I changed them to Vendilion Cliques and got burned to death by red. I sideboarded Kor Firewalker and couldn’t find the room I needed to fight
Faeries and Scapeshift.
The reason I’ve been able to make a metagame deck like Bant work for me is that I’m very in touch with what’s happening in the format. I play Extended
on MTGO every day, and writing a weekly column on Extended hasn’t hurt either. I have a pretty good idea of what cards to change from week to week and
what it takes to win each matchup.
However, I have to admit that there’s a better way to win in a format like this one. Instead of trying to outguess your opponents, you want to put
yourself in a position where you don’t care what decks they play. You can do this by choosing a straightforward, preferably proactive strategy and
mastering it. When playing G/R Scapeshift and Warrior Aggro, you set out to do the same thing each game. In the worst case, you have to stop your
opponent from stopping you, but you rarely have to really worry about what their deck is doing. Blue control, and especially Faeries, also works
well because permission answers whatever you need it to regardless of what deck the opponent is playing.
The more important point, however, is to master whatever deck you choose. You don’t have to play against thirty different decks before you enter a
tournament, but sticking with the same archetype for several tournaments will force you to encounter a wide variety of situations and therefore make
you more prepared to face things you’ve never seen before.Â