With Worlds and Extended PTQs coming up, I had to make a decision as to whether to keep the deck I’ve been testing under wraps or not. I decided that I’d rather write about it since it may end up breaking out at Worlds anyway and I have been testing it for a couple weeks and put a lot of work into it.
I got the initial idea for this deck at Grand Prix: New Jersey, when I went out to eat one night with Luis Scott-Vargas and Paul Cheon and they were talking about Extended. Being the combo deck lover that I am, I was intrigued instantly even though neither Luis nor Paul had any semblance of a decklist. I spent the drive home from the GP talking about this deck with Chris Ripple and Brian Garia, and while we came up with some good ideas, it wasn’t until I got home and searched the forums online that I found actual skeletons for the deck. I would like to thank anyone who posted in the forums regarding this deck, as it gave me a starting place even if the lists that were posted weren’t very strong. After a couple weeks testing on MODO and some live play, here’s what the deck looks like right now.
I know a lot of this probably looks confusing… but don’t worry, I’ll explain it all.
If you haven’t figured it out, the combo involves getting a Divining Top into your graveyard and then infinitely flipping two other Tops with the help of Locket of Yesterdays. After that, you win with Brain Freeze or Grapeshot. While it may sound difficult to assemble three Tops, a Locket, and a kill condition, the deck regularly goes off around turn 4 or 5 depending on whether disruption is involved or not. I’ve also had a few turn 3 kills, but those require a Chrome Mox and won’t happen too often.
The best card in the deck by a mile is a bulk rare that goes by the name of Artificer’s Intuition. This card will set up the entire combo all by itself (minus kill condition, but that’s rarely a problem), and I’ve yet to lose after being allowed to untap with this in play.
The rest of the deck is dedicated to getting the combo pieces together but also has the added benefit of being a toolbox deck thanks to Artificer’s and Merchant Scrolls. It’s because of this that the deck is constantly changing, and will continue to do so based on the metagame.
One of the biggest strengths of this deck is that you should almost automatically win every game 1, and then still be in pretty good shape after boarding since the deck is resilient to disruption.
Ah, if only Mystical Tutor was legal. This card helps quite a lot in the deck though, as it allows you to run lots of bullets that can help defend against disruption. Echoing Truth is a great answer to Pithing Needle or whatever else your opponent throws at you. The most common target for this is probably Thirst for Knowledge, simply because it allows you to gas up while also putting a Top in the graveyard. Don’t forget that the main reason these are here are to get Brain Freeze if your draw looks like it can go off without the assistance of extra card drawing. This usually means you have an Artificer’s Intuition.
I had four of these for a while, and I’m sure most of you are wondering why there are so many three-ofs in the list. The reason is that you want all of these cards present and there just isn’t enough room to play four. This guy is awesome though, and you will almost always search up Top with it.
This one I’m still not sure about. It’s been fine in most of the games I’ve cast it, but I’m still not sure it actually belongs in the deck. It’s nice to have more ways to discard Top, and the Study is cheap enough, it’s just that I’m not sure the card disadvantage is worth it. This will take a lot of testing to determine if it actually belongs or if something like Predict would be better suited for this spot. As for now, I’d leave it in the deck.
These are actually way better than they look in the deck. The mana is such that you really can’t afford to run more than two Great Furnaces, and Steam Vents is very painful considering you almost always have a turn one play. It’s possible that two Steam Vents should be in the list, but I’d want a control dominated metagame before I tried any of that. Anyway, the main reason these are here obviously is to help cast Grapeshot, though they are also very nice in situations where you are shuffling, but want to draw a card from the top three before you get a fresh look.
I’d like to cut these as well. I don’t think it’d be smart though, as they allow for some sickening opening and also are never dead since you can discard them to Thirst, cash them in with Artificers, or discard them to Careful Study. The nice thing about this deck is that you can run some artifacts like this that are situationally good without any drawback due to the synergy with Artificer’s Intuition.
Fire / Ice
This is here mainly as an answer to Kataki. It could just be in the sideboard along with the Pyrite Spellbombs, but I like having it maindeck as you never know when Ice will win you a game.
I love this card in the deck. It’s the best answer to Pithing Needle that you’ve got, and easily searchable. It also will randomly blow out some decks like Boros if you draw it early enough, and don’t forget that you can potentially cast it for three with the help of Chromatic Star. This hasn’t been necessary yet, but possibly could be. One last thing is that this is another way to get a Top into your graveyard, especially if you play turn 1 Top and your opponent responds with Needle.
This card can really help you get out of a bind, such as when your opponent somehow manages to kill three of your Tops. This is rare, but will usually involve Krosan Grip. In this case, you just dig for Ruins and rebuild the combo.
Grapeshot & Brain Freeze
Sure, Brain Freeze is the more elegant kill card, since it’s easily fetchable with Merchant Scroll. The problem is that sometimes Brain Freeze doesn’t get the job done. By this I mean that sometimes you get burned out by Boros in their final upkeep because of Lava Darts that you milled. Other problems with Brain Freeze include Gaea’s Blessing and Darksteel Colossus. At any rate, the mana can’t really support four Grapeshots, and you can’t tutor for them easily, so for now I’m running two of each and we’ll see what happens as the weeks go on.
The rest of the maindeck should be fairly self-explanatory. I wish I could run more Muddles maindeck, but they really are just too slow. Merchant Scroll for Muddle for Grapeshot is a recipe for death in the current Extended, except in certain matchups. I would really like to fit a Gigadrowse maindeck, though at this point the metagame is undeveloped enough for me to know what to cut. Because of this, I use my “well, I almost always win game 1 anyway” theory and just leave it in the sideboard. It’s also possible that maindeck Tormod’s Crypt isn’t necessary, but I like it in there at least for now.
As far as the sideboard goes, the full compliment of Needles is a must. The extra Muddle and Grapeshot are there for matchups like Tooth and Nail, where Darksteel Colossus can cause problems if you try to deck them. The Muddle doubles as a good counter in control matchups, where you will also bring in the Spell Snares. The Pyrite Spellbombs are for Kataki, or just for matchups where the maindeck Needle and Crypt aren’t any good. Gigadrowse comes in quite often if you think there will be any value in tapping your opponent out, and Explosives and Hibernation should be self-explanatory.
The deck is pretty easy to sideboard as well, and the only real recommendations I’d make are to take out the Chrome Moxes and/or Careful Studies when playing against discard, since you don’t want to help them wreck your hand. Usually you won’t be boarding in too much, and there are plenty of flexible slots in the maindeck. I don’t have a precise sideboarding strategy written down, since it’ll all depend on the matchup and you should just use your best judgment.
So far the deck has had an outstanding record on MTGO, and it went 3-1 in a local tournament losing only to a B/G deck that had four copies of Krosan Grip, Pernicious Deed, Withered Wretch, Duress, and Cabal Therapy after sideboarding. He also had some number of Persecutes, and I was still going to win the match if I didn’t draw four land in a row in game 3. The fact of the matter is that while he stripped my hand with discard, if I’d drawn one Thirst for Knowledge or Artificer’s Intuition I’d be back online immediately.
I tested a bunch of cards in the deck before arriving at this list.
I had a Fact or Fiction in the deck for a long time before deciding that four mana was simply too much. It’s possible that there should be a copy in the board for control matchups, but I think in that case I’d rather have Deep Analysis to help fight discard. I have a list of cards that either were in the deck and got cut or are at the top of the possibilities list, so I’ll type that below for anyone interested in working on the deck.
Echoing Truth (more in board)
Fact or Fiction
Memory Lapse, Remand, Mana Leak
I know there were more options when I looked through MTGO, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind right now. Most of the lists I saw in forums had maindeck Counterbalances and some number of other Counterspells. I think this is the wrong way to go about the deck since nobody can really do anything to you in game 1 anyway, unless they just kill you first. I believe the maindeck should be entirely devoted to the combo, and I’m not sold on Counterbalance after testing it a little. This is all stuff that is better to discuss in the forums though, things that will be clearer after a lot more testing.
Before playing this deck you have to realize that it is very complex and therefore hard to play correctly. There are a number of tricks that I’ve learned though that can help to make things easier. The first is that Locket of Yesterdays is very powerful on its own in this deck. Plenty of times after sideboarding I’ve discarded a Pithing Needle, and then searched up two or three more and played them all for zero mana. This is simply awesome and will usually fend off any kind of permanent answer they will throw at you. Second, remember that most people won’t counter your Merchant Scroll and you can use this to your advantage by getting Gigadrowse, which will then tap them out and make them wish they’d countered the Scroll in the first place. Third, after sideboard I recommend that you be very careful with your Divining Tops and when you discard them. Plenty of people who don’t understand precisely how the deck works will immediately use Krosan Grip on your first Top, and therefore save you the trouble of finding a way to discard it. You can also have the problem of losing too many Tops, at which point you’ll have to dig up Academy Ruins to have any chance of going off. This is not a situation you want to put yourself in, trust me.
This deck is a machine when it’s running on all cylinders, and not only is Divining Top part of the combo, but there are tons of shufflers in the deck and you should use abuse the Top to maximum potential. I can’t really think of anything else I want to say about the deck except that it is a very real threat. The maindeck is super flexible and can be tuned to any metagame with the simple addition of one or two bullets.
I invite all comments/questions in the forums.