Feature Article – Looking Back at Extended: Slide and Tezzerator

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Friday, April 17th – In a last look at the freshly-passed Extended season, Quentin Martin examines the metagame as it was at end of play, and takes a long look at two of the fringe decks that succeeded as the season drew to a close: Astral Slide and Tezzerator.

The Extended season’s end is here, and the metagame has come full circle. It’s very clear that the most prevalent deck is Fae. Following close at its heels are various Wild Nacatl-based Zoo decks. Then we see a collection of Elves, TEPS, and Life From The Loam decks making up the rest of the field. Burn is still played by people despite it being awful, and there have been some Bant decks doing miraculously well recently! Affinity and Tron are practically dead as they don’t beat anything, and the surge of Doran-esque decks that appeared when Fae couldn’t counter their threats have subsided as the format’s best control decks adapted. This seems a fair summation to me.

There are two decks on the periphery of these that I’d like to take a look at in closer detail. One of these, Tezzerator, has recently leapt back into the limelight with three GP Top 8s, and I’m going to be getting into the nitty gritty of what it does, how it works, and why it has managed to find success way back when and now again. The other deck, courtesy of Osyp Lebedowicz, is Astral Slide. This too has found a metagame niche, and even though I have little actual play experience with the deck, I should have enough theory up my sleeve to make up for it!

A quick look at the metagame will show you why I am interested in Slide. It has only two really bad matchups — TEPS and Elves. It destroys Fae if you know what you’re doing, and can play quickly enough and has a solid match up against Zoo. Against all other mid-range control decks, you have your Life From The Loam engine and if they have theirs too then you can benefit from their cycling thanks to your enchantments. At the end, the tech was to run Seismic Assault over Lightning Rift, meaning you cease to gain as much from their cycling; however, it is far more mana efficient once you have your Life engine up and running, meaning you can kill several turns more quickly.

Although it looks like the deck is automatically amazing against creature-based decks (almost the entire Extended format), measures still need to be taken to stop their speedy starts from getting away from you. To this end, both Lightning Helix and Path To Exile can be called on in differing numbers to keep the caster alive long enough for Wrath of God, Astral Slide, or the deck’s creatures to kick in. Spark Spray also does a cute job of keeping early men and Vendilion Cliques at bay when it’s not serving its primary duty of being cycled.

I’m not sure which is better main deck, Helix or Path. Although Helix is useful in almost every matchup, as it can simply dome people to accelerate the Assault clock, I feel that Path is more essential as it helps to neutralise the explosive draws the deck fears much better.

Osyp’s list has been copied almost card for card by almost every single person to succeed with the deck since he qualified, until the Japanese came up with the Seismic Assault technology. However, I think that Osyp’s list can suffer little harm from a little tweaking. For example, I see no reason not to run the fourth Life From The Loam.

First, the deck is a powerhouse against Fae because all of the creature control cards keep Fae from ever mustering an offense so that by the time the engine kicks in you will overwhelm them with card advantage. It should be noted that a savvy Fae player might well be able to counter all of your actual win conditions if they use their counters wisely. However, most will not do this, and as long as you play around Mana Leaks, they tend not to have enough of them. The Fae matchup is so good that you have no need of the Osyp’s Cloudthreshers. Eternal Witness seems to be the replacement card of choice, seeing as it can obviously be abused with Slide.

My dislike for Engineered Explosives has already been chronicled, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve cut them from this deck too. They seem to serve every purpose inferiorly. If it’s a Disenchant-effect you’re looking for then the Duergar Hedge-Mages out of the board should help you there and if it’s creature control you’re looking for, then an extra Wrath of God and Path to Exile are much more efficient.

I don’t have too much input on the sideboard as I don’t have enough hands on experience with the deck, so I don’t feel confident making too many changes there. However, I do know that the match up against TEPS is as unwinnable as it gets and it’s not worth having any cards against them at all. Elves is very difficult too, and I’m a fan of Slice and Dice, but I know that Dave Irvine played four and four Chalice of the Voids in Berlin and still couldn’t beat Elves, so once again I feel that it isn’t worth dedicating specific cards for that matchup and hope that our anti-Zoo cards work incidentally there. However, with all that being said, no one has any cards for Rule of Law any more, so it might be worth a couple of slots; I’ll see what I have room for…

I’m not positive which is better out of Relic of Progenitus, Jotun Grunt and Loaming Shaman for the LftL mirrors, but when it comes to decisions like these, I like going with the Japanese contingent, so we’ll be playing the men this time around.


I thought I’d kick things off with the decklist before going into analysing the deck for a change. There are a few unusual things about this list. The first is probably the full compliment of Cryptic Commands. I had three and two Condescend for a while but I prefer it this way. The deck works by neutralising the cards opponents can play by either Chalice of the Voids or Ensnaring Bridge. Once you have these in place against the correct opponent you then need to direct your attention to stopping the few cards they have left to disrupt you before you use the rest of your Chalices to shut them out of the game completely; you also need to deal with anything that made it onto the board before you could lock up the game state — Cryptic Command does both of these things perfectly.

The key to this deck is knowing what Chalice of the Void does in every matchup. For example, set it to one and two versus Zoo and it’s practically game over. Setting it for zero the turn before a Fae deck’s Ancestral Visions resolves is decimating (even worse if they have more than one suspended — just watch out for a timely Venser), whereas a Chalice set to two stops almost all of their counterspells and Umezawa’s Jitte. It is worth noting that apart from the singleton Jitte, there is nothing in this deck that costs two, meaning that two is often the best number to set it too (it stops Life From The Loam, Tarmogoyf, Bitterblossom, Ancient Grudge, etc.). When this happens, Spell Snare becomes a dead draw that can be imprinted on your Chrome Moxes or discarded to Thirst For Knowledge. As an additional example, note how powerful a Chalice for three is against my Slide list!

As much as I hate Chrome Mox, it thrives in this deck. It helps to power out the first turn Chalice and gets the Trinket Mages and Thirsts flowing a turn early. They are additional artifacts to discard to Thirst, they help decrease your hand size to set an Ensnaring Bridge lock up and are extra soon-to-be-5/5s when you finally get around to pulling the Tezzeret trigger.

The Firespouts are coveralls, intended to keep the board clean after you’ve taken control of the rest of the game. The first Tezzeret often just plonks a game winning Bridge or Vedalken Shackles onto the board, then takes one for the team and dies, whilst the second untaps stuff for a turn and then wins you the game (you often have to Cryptic or Explode your own Bridge in their endstep to do so, but by this time, losing the game will be virtually impossible!). The Pithing Needle is surprisingly good, it often names Mutavault, Riptide Laboratory, Jitte, Eternal Dragon, Seal of Fire, and even Engineered Explosives when the time is right. The Jitte is the very last addition to the deck, inspiration thanks to Bruno Panara, as it is handy for KO’ing opposing Jittes but is mainly there to gain life. It might sound like a bizarre reason for including the most powerful non-banned equipment, but you often lose games by being burnt out, and ol’ Jitte stops that more often than not.

Vendilion Clique is a phenomenal card in Tezzerator for a multitude of reasons. First, the best card Fae has against you is their own Clique as you have few answers to it other than your own. Second, in a deck that relies so heavily on Chalice, the information that it gives you is invaluable. Thirdly, and most importantly, you have a lot of dead cards in some match ups and always in the late game (Explosives, Moxes and Spell Snare), so Clique tends to target yourself an awful lot for a bit of handy lootage. Also, Riptide Laboratory is a very strong card in this deck as thawing out all your artifacts (read: multiple Chalices) with Trinket Mage is just too good.

The sideboard is pretty self explanatory. There are lots of dead cards in most matchups so you bring in the obvious cards. Mix the Threads of Disloyalty/Sower of Temptation mix according to what men your opponent plays. I have Stifle over Trickbinds as you often set Chalice to two against TEPS. Relying on the Bridge/Shackles becomes a lot dodgier after boarding as you’ll be facing Ancient Grudges/Duergar Hedge-Mages most of the time.

The reason Tezzerator has done well recently, much as it did back in Berlin, is because of surprise, opponent inexperience and because of how it fits into the metagame. If you know how to play against Tezzerator, you massively increase your chances of beating it as there are only so many tricks it can do, only so many ways of actually interacting with the game and only so many ways it can win. It is also very, very good against Fae. It is close against Zoo but definitely not better than 50/50, especially if they are running Sulphuric Vortex. The TEPS match up sucks abominably and, despite appearances, the deck gets dismantled by Elves (I think I was something like 9-1 up maindeck against this list running the fourth Chalice too!), although that is the Chord of Calling version and the addition of all the Cryptics might change that a reasonable amount. Life From The Loam decks are a joke as you can lock their engine up with your Chalices and stop their few ways of winning and after sideboarding you just keep recurring your Tormod’s Crypt effects until they keel over.

I must highlight that I don’t think that Tezzerator is actually that good a deck. It might be well positioned in the metagame, but it is inferior to Fae in many ways (except a good ‘mirror’ match up). I think it is reasonably difficult to play and that most of your wins come from opponent misplays (more so than usual), but then again, that is fine as it is a very difficult deck to play against. It is, however, very enjoyable to play. Watch out for time though.

I also want to give a closing nod to TEPS. I think, at the end of the season, it was the correct time to play the deck again. Everyone was playing bad midrange decks that you destroy, Elves and the mirror had practically fallen off the radar, and rest of the decks had taken out almost all of their hate. There’s no special list, as not much has changed since the GP (although the Akroma, Angel of Fury Japanese tech is phenomenal even if people do keep their Stifles around). TEPS was a very good call until the very end.

I’m a huge fan of Extended, and it’s sad to see the season end. However, the format itself proved to be versatile and ever-changing, and surprise fringe decks popped up all the time. I for one can’t wait until Extended is on the radar once again!

Until next time…