Force of Will: Anxiety About Extended

Do you wanna run out and drop $25 a pop on dual lands when the future of that format is the gag fodder of John Friggin’ Rizzo?

I want to know something. I want to know where Magic is going. It sounds simple enough, but the answers in the whole (and, to some extent, to the particulars) are tougher to come by than you might think?

First of all.

This is going to be something like the fourth or fifth time I have tried to reach to the following subject in a presentable manner. After wrangling with the text the first two or three times, I finally closed my eyes and hit the send button to our esteemed editor? And he promptly (and rightly) sent the mess back as unacceptable. See folks he does care about content. He really does – and while it may make you feel better to bellyache some about the content of overall internet writing, be aware that it could be worse. Much worse. Trust me.

That was weeks ago? But it?s tough to get a lot done in mid to late December when you have three tots getting giddy over the holidays and then you?re laid low not once but a couple a times with the bedridden fever and all?

And you?re the obsessive beta tester for Magic Online. *

And to Rizzo,

The replacement obsession for Ankh of Mishra is the light-years-more-broken, restricted-in-5-Color, grave-robbing goodness that is Holistic Wisdom. **


That Other Deranged Dad

But back to my more current problem. The problem here is that what I?m going to attempt to do is pull a lot of random stuff together that, taken as singular items, have a tendency to go off in different directions.

Yet, despite that difficulty, despite the rejection – despite the failure – I will not quit?

Here we go again:

This starts with a little look at the Extended qualifier season- a season that many writers are promoting as perhaps as balanced as it has ever been in terms of an overall metagame and variety of deck choices. Along with this, we know that much of internet Magic writing follows the Pro Tour qualifying seasons. This is both because of the general focus of the community, many of whom would like to qualify for the Tour or are already qualified, and because the series of qualifiers falls along the lines of the release schedule for the cards themselves. Currently, Extended is leading the way in evaluating the current crop of new cards from Odyssey, which will eventually lead the way to the Odyssey block season, along with other formats.

Let?s start with one evaluation?

Here is Rizzo?s list of”good” cards from Odyssey that are being used in extended.

Barbarian Ring

Buried Alive (if you get Opt, then I get this)

Call of the Herd


Mystic Enforcer

Wild Mongrel

Zombie Infestation

Could I add Shadowmage Infiltrator? I think so.

Now it doesn?t frighten me to have to go out and try and collect up these cards, either by haggling with the trade binder open or by heading to Star City for that wanted/needed single. However, let’s pick up on some words on Extended by Jay Schneider.

“These two decks,”Elvis at the Buffet Line” and”Mon’s Goblin Sligh” (undefeated in the PTQ Swiss,) are two of the coolest rogue deck beatings to come out of GP Las Vegas. In addition to turning in strong performances in very challenging environments, both Elvis and Mons share the advantage of being Pauper decks (assuming you have the multilands).”

There it is:”Assuming you have the multilands”?

Do you?

I don?t. I mean, I have some multi lands that I got out of packs way back in the day. Does that date me or what? Now, if you don?t have the multi lands what happens to your competitive urges in relation to extended? What do you do?

Here?s another point to tie in?Rizzo again?

12) Ice Age will rotate out of 1.x. Dual lands will also get the axe. (50% chance this year, 75% chance that it will ever happen)

Of course, he predicted this rotation last year. I might think it funny in a way… But I have my insight telling me that in five years he might still be doing this, and the joke will be ultimately both more funnier and grislier.

The point is this?

Do you wanna run out and drop $25 a pop on dual lands when the future of that format is the gag fodder of J. Q. Rizzo?

This is where I have to make a difficult stop and back up. I have to ask: Who wants to be the”good” players who play in qualifiers and try and make the pro tour? Who would it be that might feel the”need” to stock up on such as dual lands to try and kick some backside and win an Extended PTQ? Here?s where I?ll put forth some more or less certain facts?

Last year, both the Junior Super Series and the Standard Regional tournaments had record attendances with, participation boosts of in the neighborhood of 100% or more. If I couple these together with what my eyes see when I go out and play and what we all more or less know, we know that the general”new” Magic player who is swelling the ranks is roughly just getting off the Pokemon bandwagon or just missed it. That means that they’re are young and likely they are limited somewhat in resources.

I?m talking about the sort of high dollar resources that could garner multiple dual lands.

Dual lands have a”high” aftermarket value, simply because of supply and demand. We know that there were a limited amount of dual lands printed years ago, and that if you look at any group or tournament-winning group of Extended decklists (along with any group of Type One decklists) that you are very likely to see a plethora of dual lands in those lists. The reasons are obvious: Multi colored decks almost invariably are stronger than mono colored ones, and dual lands provide the best flexibility in providing different colors of mana. It’s not that mono colored decks aren?t possible or good. The initial incarnation of the new Trix deck was mono blue, and each color does provide mono-colored options, from Sligh to Stompy to White Weenie to Fish to Suicide Black – yet invariably, we wind up seeing takeoffs of these promoted as better versions with another color added. From Frozen Fish with Green added for Comer?s”Miracle Gro” deck, to White Weenie with Meddling Mage, to Sligh with White. Each of those take-offs is splashing a color… And the epitome of these decks sport dual lands.

Can we see where this is going? More and younger Magic players that wish to compete in an annual qualifying format – Extended = that has as one of its fundamental core parts a group of cards that are highly limited in number. If this isn?t a problem now, I hope you can see how it will become one. Extended cannot go on unchanged as a qualifying format… And even Rizzo knows this.

What we don?t know, which may be more symptom than condition, is when Extended will actually see a set rotation. As a qualifying format, Extended is unique in this position.

Drafting is rather well defined in that it uses the most recent card sets and tests a certain skill set that is fairly even across the board for competitors. One enters and opens packs that are passed around to all the participants.

Standard has set rotations that everyone is well aware of. When a new set appears, the one that appeared two years ago leaves play – and while the economics of buying and trading rare cards my not create an”even” playing field at least we do know what to expect, in terms of the longevity of a card for Type II.

With extended we don?t know what is going to happen. Is there going to be a set rotation ever? This makes me somewhat leery of going out and investing in the dual lands needed to compete at the highest level. It should make anyone feel that way – and it shouldn?t be.

In part we have to look back at some of the problems of the early game. One of the first problems to appear in tournament Magic was the highly degenerate deck, full of too many broken rares – and the response was to ban or restrict certain high-power cards. As the game progressed and tournament Magic took form, the next problem became that even when restricted power cards, already out of print, were dominating formats and defined a playing field that was less then level. Of course, this was coupled with the problem that demand was being shifted away from the new cards that Wizards was printing to old cards that they had already sold. To fix this, Wizards moved the focus of tournament magic from already printed power cards to the”Standard” format, including the newest ones – and further added to that by advocating drafting.

There was, at this point, a voice from the players of older cards that rightly wanted to have outlets to playing these older cards that they had worked hard to collect. This is where the other formats were created under the DCI’s guidance: Type 1, Type 1.5, and finally Extended. Now I?m not the greatest historian on this, but when Extended was formed, it was supposed to be an”extended” form of Standard, whereby players would find a continuing outlet of play for their Standard pool of cards. It was supposed to have a set rotation with an idea that its period of play would be roughly twice that of Standard – namely, that it would cover about four years back from the most recent expansions. It would have marked and set rotations that a player would understand to be coming and inevitable.

At this point with Extended we have neither.

As I said, this may be more symptom than problem.

Backtracking a bit at this point, we don?t know what the 2002 Regional situation will be like, but everyone knows that it should not be a repeat of 2001. So there is an underlying point here that while the game must grow and progress, at least in some areas we, the players, are kept in the dark as to the”future” of the game – at least as far as Wizards and the DCI see it. At this point, we can only guess that they don?t have a clue in regards to either the Extended rotation that must one day come… Or that they don’t know how to avoid the numbers problem that a growing game threw at last year’s Regional tournaments. Either they don?t have a plan, or worse yet they have one that they aren?t telling us about.

That may not be the end of it.

I have to wonder why, as Extended looks more and more”vintage”, why those who play Vintage aren?t somehow given their shot at qualifying for the Pro Tour. Type 1 has both a presence, and excellent players that have, at this point, no chance to qualify for the Pro Tour in their format of choice. Should that be? Why should certain holders of”vintage” dual lands and other older cards be given preference in the Extended qualifier season, while other vintage Type 1 players have no such chance?

At this point, I think I have to perhaps offer some possible solutions to this problem. The first is that I think there are going to have to be more organized tournaments. Regionals at least are going to have to be more numerous and spread out, lessening the glut of players at any one tournament site. I would think that most major cities are in need of having their own regional. In the Midwest, I believe Ohio had almost eight hundred people gather in one place – when if its other two large metro areas had had tournaments, along with, say, Indianapolis, this would have made four tourneys with around two hundred participants apiece – which are, I daresay, much more manageable numbers.

There should probably be concurrent Pro Tour qualifiers in both Vintage and current formats. I think that Type 1 players should have a shot to qualify for the Pro Tour while Johnny Teenager has a chance to draft his way in or play his Standard deck. Obviously, what we think of as the current Extended format should be made into a Vintage format, and all such Vintage formats need to be made either inclusive or exclusive to Pro Tour qualifying. I lean towards the former.

Finally, Wizards and the DCI need to both formulate a plan for the growth and future of the game and let its members, the players, know what that plan is.

I sure want to know. Don?t you?



* – Magic Online review forthcoming

** – A look at Holistic Wisdom broken-ness forthcoming as well