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Flow Of Ideas – Show Up Or Shut Up: Overextended Or Bust

Join Gavin Verhey for some of the first, open-invitation Overextended events on Magic Online and in paper. Visit mtgoverextended.com for more information, and read how to make this format a reality!


(For the audio version of this article, scroll down to the bottom.)

Extended is a failure.

It’s simple as that. Few people enjoy the format; nobody plays it unless they’re forced to for an event; and there’s little incentive
to build a collection for it. It kind of worked at one point, years ago, when Extended was smaller, and Magic was a much different game. However, with
the information we have now, it’s clear that there’s a player and interest differential between Extended and almost any other format.
It’s been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern age.

Finally, it’s time to let it go.

There have been a handful of proposed solutions. Some people feel it’s right to look at Block, but I disagree with that angle.

First of all, there are some years Block is just a miserable format to play. I know you can say the same thing about Standard, but Block can be even
worse.

Some of the worst Pro Tour formats of all time have been Block. There’s not a lot of innovation to be found once a Block format is hashed out,
and, with the exception of incredible Block formats like Time Spiral Block, they often narrow down to a few good decks quickly. It’s no good to
have a quickly stale format that’s only fun half of the time and very swingy depending on which block it is.

The nice thing about Block, though, is card availability. It’s a format that’s easy for players to access unlike the other popular option:
Legacy.

Legacy is a fantastic format, but it’s simply not a viable PTQ format. With the StarCityGames.com Open Series’ popularity alone, prices on many
cards have quadrupled. If a PTQ season hit, too many players would be left unable to play the deck they want because UndergroundSeas are $300 each.
Enough people complain about a $90, four-of card in Standard right now—how do you think players are going to react when three-quarters of the
cards in their deck cost that much?

Now, in an ideal world, Wizards of the Coast would reprint some more of these cards so players could access them. The problem is they won’t. The
reserved list—a list of cards Wizards promised to never reprint—is made up of, among other cards, all the original dual lands.

While many people have pleaded with Wizards to break their Reserve List policy, the official stance is it’s not going anywhere. To quote Aaron
Forsythe, “I hate that it exists. Creating it in the first place was reactionary and causes me no end of grief. What I do like, however, is
working for a company with integrity that will stand by its promises. So it isn’t going away, which is inconvenient but correct.”

Various other formats have been cited, especially Pauper and Peasant, but that solution doesn’t really pan out. Wizards of the Coast is a
business, and they need to sell packs to players who need cards. All-commons Magic doesn’t do that.

Within the current available formats, there isn’t a good option. However, there is a third choice: Overextended.

As I mentioned earlier, Magic is a much different game than it was six years ago. Back then, the cards in Extended encompassed half of the game’s
history. Magic has grown, and its middle format—Extended—hasn’t held up with time. Various fixes have been tried, but the format just
doesn’t work.

This has also caused Magic to have a rich era of cards we’ve set aside. From the major change in design philosophy that first happened in
Invasion to today, a lot of cohesive sets have been created with cards that just can’t be used anywhere else. They can’t compete with the
cards in Legacy but are by no means bad cards. They’re locked out of a format but not playable anywhere else, so they’ve just sat around
gathering dust.

Overextended—a name used not because it’s good but because it’s recognizable—is a format that changes that. It’s a more
modern version of Legacy in the sense that it’s a non-rotating format that occurs sometime after the reprint policy cuts off. (Mercadian Masques
is the first option to start it at.) This means Wizards can reprint cards when necessary while still having a wide-open format with plenty of history.
It also fixes the problem of people worrying about buying into the format only to have sets rotate since it has a fixed starting point.

Of course, the problem with Overextended is it’s just been a water cooler rumor thrown around. There hasn’t been a movement to lend it any
weight.

Until now.

One night a little over a month ago, there was a tweetstorm about the format. Hundreds of tweets were fired back and forth between players, tournament
organizers, and even Aaron Forsythe, talking about the format.

I had already been thinking about the format and garnered a lot of attention with a couple Facebook statuses on the format, and this tweetstorm was my
tipping point. It became clear from the interactions that night that there was significant interest in this format.

More importantly, due to the high level of attention from Wizards, it showed that if players could prove they were interested, then there was a good
chance Wizards would consider making this a real format. Someone in the community needed to amount that proof into actual results. Someone in the community needed to take a stand so other people could follow the charge. Someone in the community needed to
do the legwork on the format.

I decided that particular someone would be me.

I immediately registered a domain name and then set everything aside to begin working on the format. I built decks and played games against myself with
decks nobody had seen and archetypes in a format that didn’t exist. I created theories about the specifications of the format, tested them, and
then moved onto the next, ensuring each was equally explored. I drew up a battle plan to help illustrate the format’s viability. And in the end,
I have boundless knowledge about the format to show for it.

First, before I get to that, I want to introduce you to the hub for all things Overextended: www.mtgoverextended.com.

Information, decklists, and event information (yes, there are events planned both online and offline—check the website for details) can already
be found there, with more to come. Click it, check it out after reading this article, and bookmark it. If you’re at all interested in
Overextended, you won’t want to miss anything posted on there.

If you’re looking for anything about Overextended that isn’t explicitly stated in this article, there’s a good chance it’s on
there somewhere. (Likely somewhere in the FAQ.)

With the general overview and that important announcement covered, I want to talk about a few specific topics. First up…

Which Set to Start At

This topic is perhaps the most popular point of discussion surrounding Overextended. It’s a simple question with a difficult answer: which set is
the best beginning point for Overextended?

The one originally thrown around was Masques, but that’s only because it’s the first set after the reprint policy dissolves. Realistically,
you could choose any set between Masques and Shards of Alara and have it be a reasonable starting point.

You can quickly start sorting through the formats based on the three most important factors: diversity, card availability, and card inclusion.  

Diversity is important to a healthy format. Almost all of the healthiest formats in Magic have had a very diverse selection of decks. However,
diversity comes at a cost, and that’s card availability and card inclusion.

Card availability is the question of how hard it’s going to be for a player to get a card. The more cards in a format, the older cards get, and
the more expensive they can be. To reach optimal tournament attendance, the majority of players need to be able to find the cards they need.  

Card inclusion is which cards you’re putting into the format with your set choice. The more cards you put into a format, the higher likelihood
there is of some unfun card pushing the format into a corner. You have to look at the cards being added by the sets and ask if they’re worth the
diversity.

Answering these questions begin to eliminate potential blocks. For example, even though the format will grow, starting at Shards of Alara doesn’t
provide nearly enough diversity for the format to pick up popularity in the short term. You definitely want the Ravnica dual lands to be in the format,
which means starting no later than Ravnica.

After theorizing with the formats for a while, I quickly narrowed it down to Mercadian Masques, Invasion, or Ravnica. From there, I chose Invasion.

Mercadian Masques paints the format into a Legacy-colored corner with its numerous cornerstones. It’s very important that this format is not just Legacy-lite. It’s not an attempt to replace Legacy; it’s an attempt to replace Extended. This format needs to
have its own identity. The very first things you try to do (and succeed with) in a Masques-forward format is build decks with Brainstorm, Dark Ritual,
and Daze. The format needs to be its own, and those building blocks instead make it a reflection of Legacy.

Ravnica provides good modern grounding, but at the cost of diversity. There are numerous cards in Invasion-Kamigawa that are worth having around in a
format that tries to represent how diverse the present age can be. We’ve seen a Ravnica forward format before: Extended before the 2010
reduction. That was a good format, but going back to Invasion helps fix some of its holes.

Ravnica and Invasion are definitely the top two choices, but, if the card availability issue can be overcome, starting with Invasion adds a lot of
diversity to the format

For more details on the “set battle” check out this article on mtgoverextended.com.

I know some of you are asking, “But what about Mirrodin? That’s what Wizards chose to try for their recently announced Modern
format.” Good question—I’ll address the Modern format question in a little bit. But first, another pressing issue.

Card Availability

The largest knock against starting with Invasion over Ravnica is card availability. You add in another five years of cards. While a lot of them
aren’t too expensive right now, that’s only going to rise with time. Fortunately, since reprinting cards now fits into the equation, there
are plenty of ways to fix this problem.

You can find another discussion of this topic by clicking here, but the short version is this: if you
want to push Overextended, you have to make the cards available to players who primarily play Standard. After all, if the format is significantly
harder to break into, why should they play Overextended over Standard?

The key to all this is event decks. These have been mentioned before as options, and they truly do
solve most of the card availability problems.

Now, I recognize that event decks don’t just appear out of thin air and that R&D has to come up with the decks several months in advance.
They can’t just respond to an overinflated rare by putting out more copies of that card in the event deck. (And it’s unwise to continually
“plug holes” every time there’s a tiny problem like that anyway.)

However, first of all, finding out what decks are good ahead of time is what development is paid to do. Second of all, a lot of the cards that players
will need access to are pretty obvious.

For example, say you have an event deck with a couple fetchlands, a couple Ravnica dual lands, and a few crucial spells. You give them all the updated
card frame to boot. New players getting into the format would buy them because it’s a cheap entrance to the format and builds their collection.
Players that have been around for a while would buy them because they need the rares to play with. In fact, this exact thing has even been done to high
success in the past with the Magic Online Legacy theme decks, the precursor to modern-day event decks.

Not only does this help out Overextended players, it helps everyone else too. Legacy players have more fetchlands available to them, dampening the
price. Commander players have easy access to powerful old cards and mana-fixing.

Furthermore, it’s great for Wizards. One major problem for Wizards is that older formats don’t sell packs, and therefore they don’t
make nearly as much of a profit off of them. Event decks change all of that. They would sell like crazy and therefore make Wizards a lot of money. It
also makes shops a lot of money, helping to dampen any blow that slightly lowered fetchlands would cause.

And, of course, Event Decks aren’t the only way. Duel Decks, promo cards, and the yearly special summer release are all ways to help put extra
copies of cards into circulation. All of the technology is in place to establish Overextended product releases, and by using them, this could easily
become an FNM-friendly format. If you’re unwilling or unable to do that then Ravnica is a better starting point, but otherwise Invasion is the
winner.

The Format’s Feel

One of the largest reasons I wanted to take so long to investigate Overextended was so that I could see what the formats had to offer. It’s all
fine and good to talk about how theoretically awesome a format is, but that doesn’t come close to what you learn from actually playing that
format. Take any Standard format for example. Remember how every format is going to change and “be awesome after the new set comes out?”
Yeah, exactly.

I began to build decks and play games, trying to figure out which branch of Overextended was most diverse, fun, and appropriate for what the format was
trying to do. Through all of the games I’ve played, I have some good news: Overextended delivers.

In fact, it delivers better than I even thought possible. A crazy number of decks are viable; there are tons of old twists you can put on new decks and
vice versa. The games play out in interesting, intricate ways. Like Legacy, there are answers to every problem ensuring that nothing becomes too
dominant. Let me put it this way: it’s the only format I’ve ever played where I actually had fun playing games of Magic against
myself. (If you’ve ever done it, you know how boring that task is.)

Sure, you probably have some pillars to start with off the top of your head. Dark Depths. Elves. Affinity. Zoo. Then you begin to stretch and find
decks from the past like Goblins, Psychatog, Heartbeat Combo, Aggro Loam, Enduring Ideal, and Urzatron.

Then you can start looking at all of the new interactions across time. Burning Wish for Scapeshift… out of a Life from the Loam deck. Squadron
Hawk with Ninja of the Deep Hours. Riptide Laboratory with Sea Gate Oracle. A Teferi control deck that eventually locks your opponent with Knowledge
Pool. Slivers with Legions and Time Spiral cards, backed up by Birthing Pod.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

In fact, I feel Overextended is even more friendly to deckbuilders than Legacy despite having a smaller card pool! The format isn’t
pushed into a corner by unassailable turn 2/3 combo decks like Dredge and Storm, and then dictated by Counterbalance/Top and fundamental cards like
Wasteland and Daze. Sure, you do have decks like Elves and Dark Depths to be concerned about, but those decks are far easier to contain than Storm or
Dredge ever would be.

Overextended is incredible and exceeded my expectations. Now if only you had a place to play, right?

Events

Well, here’s your opportunity to play.

This is where the “show up or shut up” part of this article comes into play. If we want this format to exist, we have to take action on it
and show that people are interested. Show that there is a player base for this format, and it will become a reality.

I’ve set up two series of events.

The first is Tuesday Night Overextended on Magic Online. Starting Tuesday, May 31 and continuing for several Tuesdays afterward, I’m going to be
running an Overextended event starting at 5:30 PM PST. The event is free to enter and features prizes out of my own pocket. There are a total of 46
tickets up for grabs in week one. Considering it’s a free tournament, that’s some of the best value on Magic Online. For more information
on how to play in this event, click here.  

Afterwards, all decklists will be posted on the mtgoverextended.com home page. Why are you going to want decklists? Well, first of all, to build decks
for the next Tuesday Night Overextended, of course! But aside from that, these events are all building up to Worldwide Overextended Day.

On July 2, I’d like to invite stores and tournament organizers worldwide to be a part of Worldwide Overextended Day by holding an Overextended
event. (For more information, click here.)

I waited specifically for this day because there’s nothing else major going on in the Magic World that weekend save for a handful of PTQs and
StarCityGames.com Invitational Qualifiers. If you’re in one of the (currently) four places hosting one of those events that day, then I
can’t blame you for wanting to qualify. Otherwise, there’s no Pro Tour, no Grand Prix, no SCG Open Series—nothing. It’s the
doldrums of summer the week before the M12 Prerelease with nothing else going on, and you have no good excuse to not be playing Overextended that
weekend.

I’ll be compiling decklists and the results of a short survey afterward to gauge players’ reactions to the format. I’ll post them all
online, and we’ll see what information we have.

This isn’t just me going “Mythic Rares are too expensive, ban all of them!!!” and trying to start a useless petition. Wizards is actively looking for a new format to represent their game and has shown interest in this format. If we can prove it’s
sustainable, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have Overextended PTQs nine months from now.

However, this event is what Overextended hinges on. Show up or shut up. If you dislike the Extended format and/or want Overextended to be a real
format, show up. If you skip the event without a good reason, then you have no right to complain if we have to deal with Shards of
Alara-Innistrad Extended later this year.

Overextended Versus Modern

Last Thursday, Wizards announced that the “Modern” format would be used for the Magic Online Community Cup. The Modern format is a brand new format to be used at the Community Cup that is
all the cards with new card frames. (So 8th Edition forward.) This announcement comes with rather impeccable timing considering I had planned on
announcing this today, so since we have the opportunity, I’d like to take a moment to look over their format proposal and provide some thoughts.

First, I want to say that what I presume they are doing is giving the idea of a non-rotating current age of Magic format a trial run. After all of the
discussion surrounding a new format, where better to test out the idea than a tournament where new and crazy formats are used anyway? However,
importantly what I do not believe is that they have married themselves to the Mirrodin forward plan. Most likely, they are looking to
try out ideas, had an internal discussion on the topic, and came up with Mirrodin forward.

If anything, Wizards’ Modern format proposal is good news for Overextended. It shows that they are seriously considering a new format.
Now it’s just a matter of which set to start from.

Out of all the sets to choose from, Mirrodin is a far worse choice than Invasion or Ravnica. Let me go through my reasoning.

Mirrodin has a ton of format-defining cards that aren’t necessarily good for how modern Magic is intended to be played. Aether Vial. Artifact
lands. Disciple of the Vault. Chrome Mox. Thirst for Knowledge. Skullclamp. And so on. I think if given the choice, you want to skip Mirrodin block
entirely and start at Ravnica.

Now, you can take the stance that Wizards chose which is to just ban several of the cards. In fact, out of their twelve card banned list, over half of
the cards are from Mirrodin block! Is that really the healthiest choice? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to start at a block that you’re
going to instantly ban seven cards from.

Starting at Ravnica instead is a much cleaner execution. You lose the problems of Mirrodin block and skip over the lackluster (plus Jitte) Champions of
Kamigawa block and begin at a great starting point with a much smaller banned list. Yes, there are fewer sets available, but the format will grow
plenty in time.

Additionally, do you really want to have to deal with the problems of Mirrodin block forever? A major point of Modern (and Overextended for that
matter) is that it never rotates, creating a stable format to pull from. If you start at Mirrodin, it’s forever locked in, being a thorn in your
side as you gnash your teeth and debate over whether Aether Vial and Thirst for Knowledge are prevalent enough to banned.

If there’s a really, really compelling reason to have all of your cards be new card frame, then starting at Ravnica doesn’t change that.
There’s the argument that Mirrodin started the “six-year set plan,” and skipping over it means you short having Modern encompass the
complete six-year plan, but that seems like a weak argument based too much on aesthetics and not enough on play.

With all of that said, I also disagree with the banned list they chose.

I agree with Top, Clamp, and Sword, and they are also on my banned list. I understand banning Dark Depths—as noted in my article on the Overextended banned list, it’s one of two cards I’m keeping my eye on—and I see where
they were going with Chrome Mox. (Though if you’re going to ban Chrome Mox, I still don’t understand why bother starting with Mirrodin
block.) By banning Mox, you temper the fast mana that many of the control and combo-control decks used to their advantage, as well as reduce many of
the insane starts capable. In retrospect, it’s maybe a little better for fast mana than Wizards would have liked.

However, the artifact lands, Jitte, and Grave Troll I all disagree with, as well as leaving Aether Vial and Hypergenesis off the banned list.

The secret about Affinity is that although it was once the scourge of Standard, it’s ironically healthy to exist in its present state.

First of all, a 2/2 on a turn 1 and a 4/4 on turn 3 isn’t what it used to be when Wild Nacatl and Tarmogoyf exist. I remember playing the Zoo
versus Affinity matchup in Extended… it wasn’t even close! All the hoops Affinity has to jump through—playing all artifacts, being
subject to hate—Zoo doesn’t even have to touch them, and it still get a same quality, if not better quality, creature.

That’s not to say Affinity isn’t a good deck, but I don’t think it’s as absurd as other beatdown decks. While Scars of Mirrodin
block introduced a lot of new artifacts and Mox Opal and Memnite are fine cards that up the deck’s power, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is the only
card that truly scares me, and there are plenty of ways to keep that guy in check.

Speaking of keeping in check, there is a ton of hate availability for Affinity. Ancient Grudge, Creeping Corrosion, Shatterstorm, Shattering Spree,
Kataki, War’s Wage… the list goes on. If people want to beat Affinity, all of the tools exist to do so. The deck is never going to run over
the field. It might win a couple of events but no more than any other deck.

Finally, it’s very important competitive budget decks exist besides just burn. Affinity is a completely reasonable weapon for a new player trying to
get into Modern. It’s reasonably good, cheap to build, and not too hard to pilot. By removing Affinity from the metagame, you really limit the
options of budget players getting into the format, and those are precisely the players you’re trying to attract.

Now, I would still recommend skipping past Mirrodin just because you eliminate all of the problems the block has, and the more artifacts that are
released, the more Affinity could become an issue in the future. But if you’re going to start at Mirrodin anyway, I think it’s safe to
leave the artifact lands unbanned and gun down Disciple instead.

Umezawa’s Jitte is a great Equipment in creature wars and against red decks. It’s decent in midrange/control decks against creature decks.
That’s all it is. It’s not good against control and combo decks, and it’s not even unbeatable for the beatdown decks. Qasali
Pridemage is a popular maindeck beatdown card that beats Jitte; Maelstrom Pulse is one that is easy to adopt; and aside from those two, there are
plenty of good answers to Jitte that are also efficient creatures you can sideboard or play maindeck. If you carefully control their creatures, Jitte
doesn’t pose a threat.

I can see the reasoning that Jitte is going to be a good card in the format, and that’s definitely true. The main reason I can see for banning
Jitte was because it would always be a popular card that was good in some matchups, but that doesn’t seem to meet ban status. Sword of Feast and
Famine is the Umezawa’s Jitte of control matchups, and there are likely always going to be decks with it, but that’s not bannable either.
 

As far as Golgari Grave-Troll, it’s really just semantics. I agree with killing Dredge; it’s just to the degree of how much.

Dredge is not a healthy deck to exist, and I would rather it was completely dead then risk a Troll-less version coming back and being a problem.
Additionally, Grave-Troll could be a reasonable card in numerous interesting, much fairer graveyard strategies. (For example, though not legal in
Modern, in Overextended, I had him in my Psychatog deck for a while).

On the other hand, it seems unlikely anybody is going to use Dread Return, Narcomoeba, or Bridge From Below unless it’s for a nefarious purpose.
Banning those, though two additional cards, carries less splash damage. Of course, the people making the decisions at Wizards of the Coast know about
the contents future of sets, and it’s quite possible Grave-Troll is the correct card to ban in that case if it’s going to be a problem. But
why not at least give it the Affinity treatment and ban the whole suite of Ravnica Dredge cards? Dredge needs to die.

As far as the cards not in the banned list, Hypergenesis is a real problem. While it certainly can be disrupted, it doesn’t make sense to leave
it in the format you’re trying to build. Looking at the other banned cards, I can’t see why Affinity is banned but not Hypergenesis;
Affinity is easier to hate out and less powerful. If it’s “feel” that’s a concern, losing to Hypergenesis feels just
as bad, if not worse, than losing to Affinity.

Hypergenesis was frustrating to have to deal with before and eventually banned, and it’s likely going to become a similar problem in the Modern
format. Living End is a much more “fair” Hypergenesis, and banning Hypergenesis would let Living End fill that role in a much more
interactive way.

As far as Aether Vial, I understand wanting to help creature-based strategies, but it’s just the kind of card that shows up everywhere, starts
becoming really swingy based on whether you have it or not, and provides too much power for too little cost. It was banned before for good reason.

I’m guessing it was unbanned after looking at results from the old Mirrodin-forward Extended format and thinking beatdown needed a push. It feels
like an experiment to see how well it fares in this format (making me think some of the other bans are also experiments), which I can certainly
understand. I think Aether Vial is a card better left out of Modern/Overextended, but if the team leading Modern feels that beatdown needs the push,
then running the Community Cup with it to see what happens make sense—I just wouldn’t be surprised if it is reconsidered for banning later
on.

The End and the Beginning

We stand at a juncture. Tournament Magic as we know it is changing. A failed Extended season is right behind us, but that means a new non-Standard,
non-Sealed season is already heading toward us. What format will we play? For once, that’s partially in our hands.

We as players are typically good at noticing problems but poor at following through and fixing them. Part of that is because so often it’s hard
to tell if anything we do even makes a difference to the decisions made at Wizards’ Headquarters. In this case, I can tell you that they absolutely do. If we show that we want this format, if we show that we have the strong desire to play this format, change will happen.

So tell your friends. Talk to your local store. Read over mtgoverextended.com, and link it and this article to others. Discuss Overextended on
Facebook, Twitter, with your friends, and wherever else you can. We have the ability to make Overextended a reality. Let’s use it.

Speaking of talking, if you have any comments on this article, feel free post in the forums, send me a tweet, or e-mail me directly at gavintriesagain
at gmail dot com. If you’re a tournament organizer interested in running a Worldwide Overextended Day event, send me an e-mail at gavin at
mtgoverextended dot com.

I’ll see you at Providence for the GP this weekend! Feel free to come say hello; it’s always great to hear from you guys. I’ll also
be bringing a couple Overextended decks with me if you want to play some games sometime during the event, so feel free to seek me out for that reason
too.

Talk to you then!

Gavin Verhey
Rabon on Magic Online, @GavinVerhey on Twitter
www.Mtgoverextended.com

*Audio*

The audio for this article is located here. Thanks for all of the
feedback on the audio process over the past few weeks, and I appreciate you listening!