It’s always a strange situation when I start writing for a Magic website. Even if my writing style is the same for every site, each article I write helps me improve. Generally, the topics I use in my articles are defined by the particular site for which I write. As this is my first article for StarCityGames.com, I’m finding it hard to come up with a good way to introduce myself. I don’t like to repeat myself, but I will try to make the introduction as simple as possible in order to stop people fleeing from my article when they read the first word.
I’m AndrÃ©. I’m a Magic player from Portugal. I love this game as much as most of you readers. Above all, in Magic, I love to draft and to design competitive decks.
I was asked to write about my Pro Tour: Valencia deck… how to play it, how to sideboard with it, and how I’d update it for the new Extended now that the Lorwyn cards have entered the format.
Before I starting thinking about Extended, I was invited to join Steve Sadin mailing list for Pro Tour: Valencia. The list included notable players such as Mike Flores, Dane Young, Brian David-Marshall, and some other names that most people wouldn’t recognize. The members of this mailing list are very talented at Magic… some are good at deck designing, others at metagaming, and others at playtesting. This created a perfect place for ideas to flow, which helped in our quest to create great decks.
We tried lots of different decks, but the format was really wide open and it was hard to find one that showed better results overall over other decks. However, soon I was lucky enough to come across a good deck idea. After everyone contributed to testing, tweaking, and torturing the cards, the final list looked something like this:
Everyone helped with the deck, but I would like to mention that Mike Flores was the genius behind the maindeck Engineered Explosives. This improved it a lot, as the deck gained a maindeck answer to a wide range of game situations.
So, how does the deck work?
Most of the decks in Extended play with lots of non-basic lands, as well as fetch lands, and thus they take lots of early damage and are pretty susceptible to land destruction. This deck tries to explore those weak points shared by most decks from the known Extended metagame, while having a powerful strategy of its own in order to win.
The first impression that most people have while looking at this decklist is that it is nothing more than a bad Aggro Loam decklist. That is very wrong, but you’ll only be able to understand the difference when you try the deck for yourself. This deck is designed to beat a very fast metagame, as it’s packed with its own speed and disruption. It does not try to win long attrition wars based on the card advantage provided by dredge technology.
During playtesting, someone mentioned that the deck could be named Goyf 20s, because it plays 20 creatures, 20 lands, and 20 spells. Thus, for analysis, I’ll split the card-by-card deck examination in three sub-topics:
Mogg Fanatic and Kird Ape are the first-turn drops in this deck and they allow you to put a clock on your opponent while setting up a big Goyf to win (or distracting them while you disrupt their mana). Kird Ape is better overall, but the utility power of Mogg Fanatic wins him his slot in the deck. He provides additional first turn plays and allows you to optimize your mana every turn.
The similarity between Tarmogoyf and Terravore goes much further than their creature type, as they allow you to get some redundancy into your game plan. They work as early turn combo pieces – play a Lhurgoyf and Dreams with 2-3 lands on the other side of the table, or just a Terravore with Destructive Flow. Terravore is usually never worse than a 3/3 trampler for 1GG in this metagame, but you might find yourself using him to attack for ten quite often. Tarmogoyf, on the other hand… my favorite creature can be as good as a 6/7 in this deck, for the small investment of 1G. Both are great midgame drops, as they tend to be quite big after attrition wars between decks. You might find some times when it’s better to wait to play the Tarmogoyf and just try to play a reactive game, until you can finally take control of the game with those low-cost fatties.
Burning-Tree Shaman might look an odd choice for an Extended deck, but three power for three mana is decent, and while four toughness is great against beatdown, the damage ability can make it as good as a 5/4 against combo/control, as they will take damage from their fetch lands as well as Sensei’s Divining Top activations.
Destructive Flow and Devastating Dreams are the best land disruption available in the format, as you can get an edge on the symmetrical effects of both by using the eight Goyfs and getting the right lands with your fetch lands. Dreams is better against beatdown, as it also destroys their creatures while not damaging you in the process. Flow is better against control/combo, as you don’t lose card advantage with it, and it works as a continuous effect.
Terminate and Engineered Explosives are the best spot/mass removal available in this format, due to their flexibility and power, while keeping the removal as cheap as possible in order to make the cut for this deck.
Chrome Mox enables some insane draws, such as a second turn Destructive Flow, or a first turn Tarmogoyf followed by some land/creature removal. Draws like these will win some games on the spot. The speed the deck gains by playing Chrome Mox compensates for the card disadvantage, as sometimes we can just lock the opponent in the early turns.
The deck pays ten fetch lands, because of the obvious mana fixing we need… but they’re also there to make the Goyfs bigger. The basic land distribution is justified by the fact that in playtesting we realized that we fetched basic Forests more often than basic Mountains, and because the deck only needs one Swamp to play all the Black spells. The one Polluted Delta and one Windswept Heath are there for the purpose of mana balancing, while the two Stomping Grounds are included as we need RRGG in order to play Terravore and Dreams – we can just fetch two Stomping Ground and a Swamp in order to play all the spells in the deck.
The sideboard might look bad, as it’s full of four-ofs, but it makes sense. The deck usually don’t sideboard many cards against most of the matchups because most of the deck core is already good enough.
A fair question at this point is: how good is this deck?
This is the best deck in the format, or at least one of the best decks, because it gets no worse than 50-50 matchups against any known deck in the metagame, as long as both players play an optimal match. Five good players played it at Pro Tour: Valencia, and all missed Day 2, so why do I keep saying that it is the best deck?
My 50-50 assertion is based on the playtesting we did versus the other decks in the metagame, so I must reverse the question… If the deck is that good, why did the players miss Day 2? The deck is very hard to play perfectly, much harder than any other deck in the format, as you have tons of different options during a game. Sometimes a simple fetchland activation you misread on the first turn will mean a loss, where a different land fetched could’ve given an easy win. Even most of the good players don’t play perfectly, and while we tested the deck, we didn’t play enough matches to actually master how to play it, as we were more concerned about tweaking it and getting to know how good was it most of the times, but while playing this deck we get so many tough choices, that even good players won’t play it well enough to win enough games to make the cut for Day 2.
TEPS: -4 Terminate, -3 Mogg Fanatic, +4 Duress, +3 Krosan Grip
Tings: -4 Mogg Fanatic, -4 Terminate, +4 Duress, +4 Extirpate
Ideal: -4 Terminate, -4 Mogg Fanatic, -3 Engineered Explosives, +4 Duress, +4 Extirpate, +3 Krosan Grip
Aggro with burn: -4 Destructive Flow, +4 Smother
Aggro Rock: -4 Destructive Flow, +4 Smother
Flow Rock: -4 Destructive Flow, +4 Duress
Gifts Rock: -4 Mogg Fanatic, +4 Duress
CounterTop: -4 Devastating Dreams, -4 Mogg Fanatic, +4 Duress, +3 Krosan Grip, +1 Smother
Urzatron: -4 Mogg Fanatic, -4 Kird Ape, -2 Terminate, +4 Duress, +3 Krosan Grip, +3 Extirpate
I might be missing some matchups, but you can get an overview of what I want against such builds by checking what I sideboarded against similar strategies. Would like to mention that against TEPS you want to draw when you get the choice, instead of playing first, because the matchup is usually about the attrition war. While you are not fast enough to put them facing a winning clock, the fact that they get one less card slows them down and hinders their attempts to get the combo pieces. It also gives you one extra card with which to disrupt them.
Against beatdown, I gave a general sideboard rule. I would like to add that if you play against Domain Zoo, you should keep the Destructive Flow on the play and remove Mogg Fanatic instead, as they might sideboard out the creatures that die to it. Also keep in mind that you need to play tight when it comes to taking damage from the fetch and shock lands. Try to always plan ahead, and remain higher than sixteen life when possible, because this way you’re out of the Draco Explosion range, which is a powerful one-card combo.
The matchups in which this deck shines are mainly aggro, where you get a 80/90% edge due to the quality of removal and the size of your creatures. Apart from that you remain 50/50 against a significant part of the field, if you play perfectly. This might grow in your favor if the deck keeps the element of surprise factor on its side.
What Cards Can We Add From Lorwyn?
It’s difficult to update an Extended deck with just one set, because Extended decks are usually really powerful as they are a product of an enormous card pool featuring many sets and many cards. However, Lorwyn has a card that I think will greatly impact most formats: Thoughtseize.
First of all, we need to understand why is this card so good. Most people think of it as simply a “better Duress,” but I must disagree… I think it’s much better than that. This card is never bad in the first game, as Duress is sometimes prone to be; when you play against creature decks like goblins, for example. It’s almost another example of spot removal, like Terminate or Smother, both cards that make the cut in a lot of decks these days. Yes, Thoughtseize can’t deal with creatures once they hit the table, but it won’t be a dead card against the combo/control decks, as the aforementioned removal spells can be. I think that what we lose there in terms of reactivity, we gain in terms of flexibility. This is great, as having a dead card in our hand is just card disadvantage. It can almost represent a mulligan.
So, what changes can we actually make to the deck, in order to update it with Lorwyn? Terminate is usually dead in the combo/control matchups, as I mentioned above, so we’ll want to replace it with Thoughtseize. This should improve the deck overall, and give it better chance against non-beatdown decks while not losing that much against the aggro variants. Then we need to change the sideboard, because Terminate is better than Smother, so the obvious play here is to replace the Smother.
I hope this article was helpful… now go and win a tournament!