Feature Article – Extended Death Cloud

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Friday, February 5th – Extended is proving to be a format in which any deck can flourish… at least, that was the case before Thopter Depths became dominant. Nevertheless, knowledge of any deck can take the pilot over the top. Today, Gerard Fabiano brings us his intriguing Death Cloud deck, alongside a funky PTQ-winning offering from Ken Adams!

This week, I’m writing about a deck that is, in my opinion, one of the best and underplayed decks in the Extended format: Death Cloud. A deck like this is often best in a known metagame, and since the season is about to change a little with the introduction of Worldwake, you may feel that it’s not the best time to try this. However, the strength of the strategy is apparent, and Worldwake appears to have minimal impact on Extended at present… it’s definitely something to watch.

In this article I will go over each card in the deck, and the reason behind why it’s there, along with some sideboarding tips.

The Mana Ramp

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder and 2 Rampant Growth
This brings us to a total of 6 ways to ramp our mana on turn 2, allowing for a turn 3 Garruk or Harmonize. Some of you may still have the impression that if you are casting a turn 3 Harmonize or Garruk in Extended, you are already dead. This is far from the truth. The Extended format has many decks that can get or set up their combo very early, but this requires them to have drawn their combo within the first eight or nine cards they draw, and without having you draw one of your six early discard spells to disrupt them. Both of these mana ramp cards thin out your deck, giving you better odds to draw your more powerful cards and avoid any permanent disruption. This is one of the reasons why I chose Rampant Growth over Fertile Ground.

The Disruption

2 Pithing Needle
Pithing Needle has become very important in the format since Dark Depths/ Foundry deck has become the most popular deck in the format. The Needle allows for you to stop whichever part of the combo they may have in hand or in play. With the help of your discard cards, you are able to see what they have going on and play your game accordingly. In other matchups, Pithing Needle isn’t as good, but can still mess up a player’s game. Naming fetchlands against Zoo can be game breaking, as is naming Cranial Plating/Arcbound Ravager against Affinity. If you are against a deck that they aren’t great against, just board them out.

4 Thoughtsieze
Thoughtsieze is most likely the best one-mana discard spell of all time. The life loss is almost always irrelevant, and the power to be able to have them discard almost any card on turn 1 can be game breaking. Against a deck like Zoo or Affinity, they are boarded out… not because they are bad against those decks, but because you have better stuff in the board to bring in. The basic rule of discard is that if the opponent’s deck is fast then discard usually becomes worse, because the chance of them dropping their hand and you drawing a dead discard spell becomes much higher.

2 Duress
Duress brings a couple of extra discard spells in for the matchups were you really need them. The way I have my sideboard set up against Zoo and some other creature decks means you will bring out the eight-card disruption package in favor of eight removal spells, to help combat their creatures.

The Planeswalkers

3 Garruk Wildspeaker
Garruk is a very important card for the deck, since it serves as a mana ramp effect to power out a Death Cloud, and as a win condition, before or after the Cloud. One of your best draws involves you having a turn 3 Garruk, but I still wouldn’t play 4 since we have Harmonize in its place instead. Depending on the matchup, you may want to make a beast the turn you play it, or untap lands to add the additional counter to it.

2 Sorin Markov
Sorin is still one of the most overlooked cards in the format. In this deck he fits a little better than he did in my BUG deck, since we have much more mana ramp here. He is able to come down on turn 4 and start taking over the game. You almost never have your opponent’s life total set to 10, as instead you are trying to build up counters to be able to use the Mindslaver ability and win the game. I think Sorin should not be boarded out in many cases, as he is one of your key cards needed to win.

1 Liliana Vess
Liliana was the newest addition to the deck, and she serves as another threat while providing some disruption built in. I have never been a fan of Tutor-type cards, but Liliana can get you more than one use of a Tutor, and she can also mess up a control player’s game. Of course, she is worse against some beatdown decks, but she still serves a purpose.

The Removal

4 Maelstrom Pulse
This is the only real removal spell main deck, and that’s because having dead cards like Damnation and Doom Blade against the two most popular decks (Scapeshift and Dark Depths/Foundry) is too bad. Your game 1 matchup against them is already heavily dependent on you drawing early discard, so you don’t want to make these matchups tougher. Against Zoo, you can two-for-one them pretty often, and even just taking out a Tarmogoyf is fine. I am not too concerned with the beatdown matchups, because of the way this deck is set up. I am more concerned with decks that have the ability to topdeck for the win after being left with nothing. Pulse is still very good versus the Dark Depths/Foundry deck, but it’s clearly next to unplayable against Scapeshift.

The Creatures and Card Draw

Since I’ve already listed Elder in the mana ramp section, the only creatures you really have are 3 Eternal Witness and 4 Kitchen Finks.

3 Eternal Witness
Eternal Witness is in the deck because it is a very useful card to have. It serves as a creature to attack with, and it gets you back early discard which you will most likely need against the combo/control decks. Sometimes he is there to get back an Elder to further ramp your mana. Whatever the case, he shouldn’t be boarded out.

4 Kitchen Finks
However, Kitchen Finks should sometimes be boarded out. For example, against a Dark Depths/Foundry deck or Scapeshift deck, you might have so many cards to bring in that the Finks should be boarded out. Against any aggressive deck, he is one of your best weapons, and he is nice to have after a Cloud resolves.

2 Harmonize
I wanted to be able to dig for key cards, and Harmonize seemed the best option for Black Green. So far, I have been pretty happy every time I’ve drawn it, and with Witness to help out, I wouldn’t want to play any more than two.

The Lands

The 24 lands are all pretty straightforward in the deck. You have enough basics and mana search to mean Blood Moon is garbage against you, and you have Treetop Village to serve as another hidden threat. The mana is basically just how you want it, and you shouldn’t ever worry about getting color screwed.

The Sideboard

3 Extirpate
Great against Dredge and combo decks. Having them discard a Scapeshift and then Extirpating it away is almost always game over, and stopping a Sword is important. It’s just a very versatile card to have, and it can really get you out of bad spots, or put your opponent into a terrible position.

4 Doom Blade
Doom Blade is there to bring in against Zoo, Affinity, most Blue decks with Goyfs and other creatures, and Tezzeret decks that will have Meddling Mage and Baneslayer Angel.

2 Damnation
Damnation is a bomb against Affinity and Zoo, since most of the time at worst it is a two-for-one, and when you have so much other spot removal it’s very tough for them to play against you correctly. Damnation is also a useful card that can come in against some rogue decks, such as Elves.

1 Cranial Extraction
This is a one-of, and I feel that’s all you really want. With Witness, you can get it back and use it again if necessary. Also, it is a Tutor target that can be used to good effect with Liliana Vess.

2 Shadow of Doubt
Shadow of Doubt is there mainly to help fight Scapeshift, but it can come in against other decks. Against Tezzerator, Shadow should come in, and in some cases it’s fine against Zoo, since it works as a Stifle that draws you a card against all the fetchlands. I almost want to make a deck that will allow me to main deck four of these.

2 Last Gasp
More removal against creature decks, and also good verses Dark Depths. It’s able to kill Dark Confidant or Hexmage, since Doom Blade can’t do that.

1 Krosan Grip
This is another one-of I thought would be pretty good, since most people won’t expect it and it’s very good at what it does. Again, having cards that might surprise your opponent becomes more valuable, and if they see one, they might start playing around another for the rest of the game.

Some Worldwake cards that might fit well into this deck could be

It’s one of the best removal spells of all time, and it seems good in the format.

Tectonic Edge
This is another card that I can see fitting well into the deck, and it might warrant Life from the Loam making an appearance in the deck, along with more sac lands.

Bojuka Bog
This could be format-changing, since Dredge and other combo decks will be in trouble; this will be played in almost any deck with Black, and maybe even in some without.

I’m sure there’s a good chance other Worldwake cards could make their way into the main deck or sideboard, but I think the ones I listed above have a good chance.

Another deck I want to touch on is a deck that won a PTQ recently, in the hands of Ken Adams. His list is as follows:.

This deck has game versus control and beatdown decks, while applying pressure against combo decks. It also has answers to prevent combo decks from winning. The other thing I really like about this deck is the staggered numbers in the main deck. In addition to that, I feel a deck like this will only get stronger with Worldwake.

Here is what Ken Adams had to say about his deck.

My name is Ken Adams, and I loves me some Greater Gargadons! The guy is a 9/7 for one mana. With the haste!

The story of this deck started two Extended seasons ago. I was not enamored with the format, and needed a deck for an upcoming PTQ in Richmond. At the last minute I threw together a Blue/Red deck based around Gargadons, Ancestral Visions, Countryside Crusher, removal, and light permission. The idea was to suspend something on turn 1, and live long enough for this spell to come off suspend and hopefully win the game with a 9/7 or Ancestral Recall. Needless to say, my friends, and pretty much everyone else that saw the deck since, found an Extended deck containing Greater Gargadon and Mogg War Marshal hilarious. Coming in with almost no testing, I went on to Top 8 that tournament, losing to a goblin deck in the semi-finals because of a preemptive Gargadon all-in in game 3.

The deck still has the same theory behind it now as it did when it was built, and many of the same cards. The version I played in Lexington was tweaked to beat a field of Zoo, with main deck Threads of Disloyalty and a large removal suite. The best part about playing this deck is that people don’t realize just how quickly a suspended Gargadon can come into play. In Lexington there were at least 3 times when I suspended a Gargadon, flashed a Vendilion Clique into play during the opponent’s turn to check for answers, and proceeded to sac out and kill them next turn via Cryptic Command, removal on their blockers, or playing a War Marshal to remove the last counters from the don.

The deck is weak against any type of big mana strategy. Fortunately, nobody is playing them right now. Dredge can also be a problem, but is not unwinnable. There are outs to Iona, regardless of the color named. If I had to make any changes to the deck, they would all be tweaks to the board based on whatever metagame you are expecting. Damping Matrix was thrown in at the last minute as Thopter/Depths answer, and a board card for Affinity. I never cast the card, and am interested to know how good it is. Fallout should be there if you expect Faeries to show. I could go on about this deck for a while, but I don’t want to hijack Gerrard’s article. Play the deck! You’ll be surprised at how good it is.

If you have any PTQs online before the Worldwake is released, or if Worldwake proves to be of negligible impact on the format, I would suggest you try out one of the two decks I have listed above. I played the Death Cloud deck, and feel the list is solid. You will have to work for most of your wins, and play tight, but you do sometimes just draw the nuts and win with ease.

If you choose to play another deck, I would suggest you know your deck and try to stay up to date on the metagame so you can tune your sideboard. To me, it seems three most popular decks are Zoo, Scapeshift, and Dark Depths/ Foundry combo. You know all of these gameplans, so make sure you have a deck that can fight against them.

Take it easy, and if you guys have any questions or comments, post them in the forums