Oh, I wish I’d gone to Vegas. I was seriously considering a hasty drive down there, but many factors conspired against me, one of which being the weather (very, very nasty here in central Oregon), and I’m also helping to staff the game store I’m part-owner of, and I was short of cards I needed… But the biggest factor was that, well, I’m still rather unemployed at the moment.
Another day, another Grand Prix. I would have lost all my money at the blackjack tables or money-drafting, anyway.
You should have read the draft of this article before Grand Prix: Sendai! Donate is dead, blah blah blah, The Rock is tops, etc., etc.
Nothing like a wacky weekend in Japan to shake things up.
As of today (being Tuesday as I’m typing this), we can officially say that there is no one truly dominant deck in Extended. What can be considered Tier 1 right now is:
- PT Junk
- The Rock and his Millions
- Maher-Oath and Turboland (I’m lumping them together for now)
- Walamies-control, or”Dumbo Drop”
- Finkula, with or without Pernicious Deed
- “Miracle Gro”
- “Zombie Nation” decks using Zombie Infestation
Criminy, that’s nine decks! Nine! On any given Sunday, one of these decks could win a Grand Prix or GP Trial.
Forgive me if I meander a bit here, but I’ve got quite a few things to say and no particular order to say them in.
The King is Dead, Long Live the King:
- New Orleans:”Donate is king!”
- Las Vegas and Curitiba:”The king is dead!”
- Sendai:”Donate is king!”
Man, this is making my head hurt.
When I was working on this article late last week, I had pegged Miracle Gro as a really fun idea but one whose time had come and gone, a one-shot wonder. Designed as a Trix (and, to a lesser degree, other control deck) killer, now that Trix was dead after Vegas and Curitiba, it wouldn’t be quite as effective.
I sort of anticipated the Japanese metagame, which can be harder to figure out than Chinese algebra (yeah, I’m mixing metaphors and countries; so sue me), would see the rising of some possibly new game-breaking archetype that would blow an already wide-open field even wider.
No, the Japanese just decided, ‘twould seem, to all play Donate. Criminy, five Donate decks… So that left everyone’s favorite spawn of evil to tweak the Comer design into a stronger version based around threshold creatures. Long’s version is much stronger and beefier than the Comer version, as its creature base synergies well together, especially Wild Mongrel and Werebear.
Basically, as long as Donate decks are viable in Extended, so will Miracle Gro.
Wither the Deuce?
Can someone explain to me why Three-Deuce is still a top Extended archetype? Don’t get me wrong, I love the Deuce – it took me to a Top 8 once – but I pretty much figured that its time had come and gone. I mean, look at it. It’s jankier than Junk, its creature base is horribly vulnerable to mass removal spells, and its extremely vulnerable to land destruction, since its mana base is small and all non-basics. The deck has holes that you could drive a truck through.
But it just keeps plugging along, The Little Engine That Could of the format, a Swiss army knife in a field of buzzsaws.
Why does this archetype refuse to die?
Well, for one, it packs the best creature removal in the format (Swords), the best enchantment removal (Seal of Cleansing and Wax/Wane), and it has a diverse creature base that, while small, can prove to be difficult to deal with, like a swarm of gnats taking on an elephant.
There are cards, like Powder Keg, Massacre, and Perish that unequivocally wreck the Deuce. Fortunately, there aren’t too many decks that pack these cards right now – aside from Massacre, and that’s only a sideboard card in The Rock. But The Rock also has fun things like Stench of Evil and Living Death that the Deuce is none too fond of.
How much of the recent success of Three-Deuce decks can be attributed to simply lucky matchups and playing skill will be determined once the qualifiers are in full swing. In all honesty, I’d have to say the Deuce has been lucky, but it did make Top 8s in Vegas and Curitiba (which, previously, I had thought was a species of poisonous tarantula), so maybe I’m wrong. I just won’t be playing it at my local qualifier.
As an aside of sorts, I feel I should mention John Balla’s Vegas”Threshold-Geddon” deck, which essentially is Three-Deuce built around Armageddon. It’s a variant that will have to be watched.
…And Millions of The Rock’s Fans
I was all set to get this article done breaking down Sol Malka’s The Rock in Extended after his 18th place showing in New Orleans and praise it as”the next breakthrough deck in Extended,” but then there was this girlfriend thing that came up and I never got around to completing it.
So you’ll just have to take me at my word that I’m rather prescient about this sort of thing.
Rather than prattle on, Mike Flores has an excellent breakdown of the deck here, so those interested can take a look-see.
Avoid the Void
Why are people not playing Planar Void? This card cripples over half the major archetypes in the field. Most people are using the Phyrexian Furnace as graveyard removal – but for many decks, Planar Void is the superior and overlooked choice. A few decks in the last round of Grand Prix were running them in the sideboard.
What does Planar Void wreck? Clearly, decks that depend upon graveyard recursion, such as”Benzo” and Zombie Nation, will hate this card, as it makes their engines null and void. Oath-based decks and the U/W/G”Dumbo Drop” decks using Call of the Herd and Gaea’s Blessing will have their decks at the very least disrupted by Planar Void, since it also kills the Gaea’s Blessing engine. Even Trix is affected by this card, as it will negate the power of the Accumulated Knowledge/Intuition combo. Also, now that The Rock and his Millions has joined the ranks of Tier 1 Extended decks, Planar Void is a suitable defense against the Rock’s own particular brand of recursion.
To defend against graveyard removal, many recursion-themed decks are either running Null Rod or Ground Seal to shut down the Furnace. Dear Lord, who would have thought we’d see Ground Seal making an Extended deck? But Planar Void gets around them all. And the only defense these decks usually have against a Planar Void is one, maybe two Emerald Charms or Seal of Cleansing.
More than enough time for a single Planar Void to, at the very least, disrupt them for several turns.
And did I mention it only costs a single black mana to cast? Drop it on turn one, and it’s auto-scoop time for a good chunk of the field.
With all the anti-Furnace hate that will no doubt be coming down the pipe, the Void may be the way to go.
The decks that can best utilize Planar Void are the heretowith unseen Aggro-Control Black (which I’ll publish once I get it to actually win some games, although this one looks pretty good… Criminy, I’m turning into Link Boy here today), PT Junk and Three-Deuce variants that splash black (does that make them Quad-Deuce?). If I was going to play PT Junk at the nearest Osaka PTQ (which, currently, there is a very good chance of), I’d probably pack at least three in the side.
Mind you, before you start sending me hate mail, I think the Phyrexian Furnace is still the best way to go for most decks right now, but Planar Void deserves serious consideration.
Cooking With Dave
Ah, PT Junk – a beatdown deck after my own heart. Junk is like a cooking experiment gone wonderfully awry; sometimes you throw everything in the pot and you get, well, dog food, and sometimes you get something really damn good. Throw in the best removal spells (Swords, Vindicate, Deed), the best discard (Duress, Gerrard’s Verdict), a creature base that has the best of the three colors (Spectral Lynx, River Boa, Spiritmonger and maybe Phyrexian Negator), add a dash of Tithe to get your colors and garnish with Elephant tokens, and you have a nasty aggro-control deck that can dominate the field.
Flores may be a bad player, but he knows how to put a deck together.
If you’re thinking about this deck for the upcoming PTQs, I’d recommend playing it quite a bit, as it’s a bit trickier than it looks. Personally, I think it’s the best deck out there.
Don’t Hate the Plateau, Hate The Game
Just about every Tier 1 Extended archetype right now is heavily dependent upon non-basics. Heck, many aren’t running any basics at all. Ergo, we may see cards like Back to Basics and Ruination get more play. Of course, no one was running red at the last Grand Prix outside of Three-Deuce (which wants to play Ruination the same way I want a hole in the head) and Donate, and Back to Basics only saw play in mono-blue Forbidian – an archetype now considered deader than Lincoln.
We still have Dust Bowls and Wastelands, but those aren’t quite so much hate as they are”strong dislike.” Global non-basic hosers, now that’s the true meaning of hate.
However, with the fall of Trix from the top spot and decks heavily dependent upon non-basics, is the time ripe for Price of Progress Sligh, with anti-Oath creatures like Ball Lightning and Viashino Sandstalker, to make a comeback? Price of Progress is such a beating against Three-Deuce, PT Junk, and Maher Oath decks. Trix wrecks the deck, and of course it doesn’t much care for Spiritmongers (perhaps a splash of black for Terminate?) – but other than that, Sligh can still deliver the timely hate and turn four kills for much of the field.
While my head seems to say that Sligh is ripe for a comeback, my gut says”not so fast,” so I’ll trust my sadly expanding gut (damn that egg nog!) for now.
What Cards Are Defining the Format
These are the biggies:
- Swords to Plowshares
- Phyrexian Furnace
- Zombie Infestation
- Pernicious Deed
- Dual lands
Knowing This, What Cards Are We Going To Have To Start Looking Out For?:
Watch for these cards, because you’ll have to be ready for them.
Reanimator decks have seen their day, as there’s too much hate for them in almost every deck right now. Zombie Infestation decks, however, are still very viable.
The Rock, Donate, and PT Junk will comprise at least 40% of the decks in the upcoming PTQs, leading to three-hour long mirror-match games in Top 8’s.
Take San Francisco and the points this weekend.
Sligh will not make a comeback.
Maindeck Choke will be replaced with maindeck Slay.
Someone’s gonna play Planar Void and win a qualifier with it.
Dave will finally win a PTQ.
Hey, one of these has to be right.