Innovations – Mastering Extended: A GerryT/Innovator Collaboration

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There’s something different for us today… Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin interviews Gerry Thompson on the intricacies of the current Extended format. GerryT shares two lists – his build of Doman Zoo, and his personal take on Next Level Blue – before sharing sideboarding plans against the Tier 1 decks. If you’re looking for an edge at your next PTQ, let Patrick and Gerry guide the way!

Patrick Chapin (PC): Want to be a special guest and co-write an article with me?

Gerry Thompson (GT): Perhaps. About what?

PC: Extended.

GT: Anything specific? And when do we have to do this?

PC: No, and whenever you want.

GT: Yeah, I’m down.

PC: Actually, it would be better to do this week, otherwise it will have to be in three weeks. The
following week, I have a Standard set review lined up.

GT: We’d have to do it soon. I leave for a PTQ early on Friday morning.

PC: Okay… how about Thursday?

GT: Sure.

PC: Out of curiosity, how many “Tier 1” decks are there?

GT: Six

PC: Which are?

GT: Zoo, Doran, Enduring Ideal, Dredge, Affinity, and Next Level Blue.

PC: Seems about right.

GT: Well, Affinity isn’t Tier 1, but it’s a deck I worry about.

PC: So, five?

GT: Basically.

PC: If you were recommending a deck to a PTQ player, you would recommend they play one of those five?

GT: Yes. Definitely.

PC: Okay… how about the reasons to avoid other decks. For instance, what is the flaw with U/G Tron?

GT: Tron decks are powerful, but inconsistent. If someone is good enough to pilot a deck of that style well, I think that they are simply better off playing Next Level Blue.

PC: Okay.

GT: The match-ups across the board are much better.

PC: What about R/G Aggro?

GT: R/G is the same as Zoo.

PC: So it is good? Good enough?

GT: Yeah. It’s basically the same thing, except Zoo has more options.

PC: What about Gifts Rock?

GT: Gifts Rock is trying to do what Tron does while not losing to Aggro decks, but it simply fails. It doesn’t have a hard lock like Tron, which makes it a substandard deck.

PC: What about Martyr (of any variety)?

GT: I don’t think it’s viable if people are playing Trinket Mage. You built that deck to beat your version of Next Level Blue, without realizing that not everyone carbon copies.

PC: Heh. What about Balancing Act?

GT: Balancing Act is something I want to look into, since its game winners aren’t affected by Counterbalance.

PC: What about Tooth and Nail?

GT: I was almost going to play that in the PTQ this weekend. Collective Restraint, Pernicious Deed, and Living Wish are all huge in this format.

PC: Agreed.

GT: Gifts Rock is just a bad deck, however. I was losing to all the Dredge splash damage, so I briefly looked at Zac Hill Spain deck.

PC: …and GT’ed it?

GT: Hah, what does that mean?

PC: Moving on… What are you currently playing?

GT: I am playing Next Level Blue:

PC: What are the Sowers for? Doran? The Mirror?

GT: Basically, they’re for everything.

PC: Haha.

GT: They’re even good against Affinity.

PC: I like what I see. If you were to recommend an Aggro deck, what would the list be?

GT: I would say to use:

GT: There is something else in the sideboard, something very important. Leyline of the Void! That’s right, haha!

PC: What if one wanted to play combo (graveyard/storm/game-winning big-spell, whatever)?

GT: Ideal is an option here, yes?

PC: Yes, as is dredge. So are TEPS, Tooth, Balancing Act, Breakfast, Erratic Explosion, and… Dragonstorm!

GT: Yeah. To be honest, I’d stick with Enduring Ideal.

PC: So you don’t recommend Doran for Aggro players, or Dredge for combo players?

GT: I can’t recommend Dredge, no. The problem with Dredge is you don’t really play Magic. You win game 1 around 80% of the time, and then for games 2 and 3 it’s just who gets the luckiest start. They mulligan to their hate cards, and you try to find Chain of Vapor plus discard outlet plus dredger plus land. That’s not a game I want to play, especially in a ten-round tournament.

PC: What about Doran?

GT: The Doran mirror is similarly all about luck, and the deck is widely played. I would much rather sidestep those kind of luck battles and do something else. I would rather stab myself with a rusty screwdriver than play the Doran mirror.

PC: Would you recommend Next Level Blue to good players?

GT: Your definition of good player might differ from mine.

PC: Who would you recommend Next Level Blue to?

GT: If they’re one of the best players in the room, I think a version of Next Level Blue is the deck that has the best chance of winning the tournament.

PC: How do you sideboard with your Next Level Blue versus Doran?

GT: Against Doran:

+3 Sower of Temptation, +1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror, +1 Academy Ruins, +1 Pithing Needle
– 3 Living Wish, -1 Tormod’s Crypt, -1 Trinket Mage, -1 Spell Snare (on the play) 1 Threads of Disloyalty (on the draw)

PC: What about against Zoo?

GT: Against Zoo:

+3 Sower of Temptation, +1 Academy Ruins
-3 Living Wish, -1 Tormod’s Crypt

PC: Is that enough?

GT: I believe that Zoo is on the decline, hence no Hierarch, and no Force Spike.

PC: What about Ideal?

GT: Against Ideal:

+3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Academy Ruins
-3 Vedalken Shackles, -1 Threads of Disloyalty, -1 Tormod’s Crypt

PC: Affinity?

GT: Against Affinity:

+3 Sower of Temptation, +3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
-3 Threads of Disloyalty, -4 Counterbalance, -1 Tormod’s Crypt

PC: Dredge?

GT: Against Dredge:

+3 Ancient Grudge, +2 Tormod’s Crypt, +2 Sower of Temptation, +1 Pithing Needle, +1 Academy Ruins, +1 Gaddock Teeg
-3 Threads of Disloyalty, -3 Spell Snare, -4 Counterbalance

PC: What about the Mirror?

GT: Against Next Level Blue:

+1 Academy Ruins, +1 Indrik Stomphowler, +3 Sower of Temptations, +3 Ancient Grudge
-3 Trinket Mage, -3 Living Wish, -1 Chrome Mox, -1 Tormod’s Crypt

PC: What about Tron?

GT: For things like Tron to be good, your metagame has to be very specific. It’s so fragile, and the match-up against Red decks is miserable.

PC: No… I meant how should one sideboard against the Tron deck?

GT: Ah, I see! Against Tron:

+3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Pithing Needle
-3 Threads of Disloyalty, -1 Counterbalance

PC: Cool.

GT: If they’re running U/w, I might bring in a couple Sowers for Exalted Angel and trash like that. I’d much rather play against U/g than U/w, as they’re so much easier to beat.

PC: Yeah, U/w is hard. Okay, thanks for the input on Next Level Blue. Let’s switch gears a minute. What are the Top 5 cards from Morningtide for Extended?

GT: Ugh… I don’t even think that list is 5 cards long

PC: What about the Countryside Crusher? Mutavault? Earwig Squad?

GT: People will definitely be trying to put Crusher and Mutavault into decks, but I’m just not seeing it. As for the Squad… it seems like there are much better alternatives. Cranial Extraction doesn’t see play, and that strips their hand. I’m just not sure when you would ever want that guy instead of Extraction or Extirpate.

PC: How about when you would want a 5/3 for three…

GT: At that point, why does the Jester’s Cap matter?

PC: It doesn’t always matter that much, but you are paying for the body.

GT: People play those types of effects for their ability to end the game against specific decks

PC: I just want a 5/3 guy…

GT: Doran is 5/5 for three, Goyf is a 4/5 minimum for two. Is a three-mana 5/3 supposed to impress me?

PC: The fact that he takes the kill mechanism out of a Dredge deck or the win cards from Tron is just a bonus.

GT: That card is miserable versus Dredge.

PC: Okay… What about Murmuring Bosk, the G/w/b land?

GT: Yeah, that thing is awesome.

PC: An automatic one-of in all B/W/G decks?

GT: At least. It helps out Zoo too. Obviously not for the Domain stuff, but post board there’s a lot of Terminates and Teegs and stuff. Lots of really different mana costs and colors.

PC: What about Yrmahm?

GT: Unsure if that was English or not.

PC: Yrmahm… How good is Yrmahm?

GT: Oh, my mother? She’s nice.

PC: Good. This should be a useful article.

GT: Excellent

PC: “Mastering Extended” with Gerry Thompson.

GT: If you need anything else, let me know!

PC: What is the worst deck that people like to play?

GT: I think it’s a huge tie between stuff that isn’t Next Level Blue.

PC: Okay, now I’m laughing out loud in a coffee shop… people are looking at me funny.

GT: Haha.

PC: I am the only one laughing.

GT: I think Zoo and Ideal are the ones I worry the most about (of the popular decks), and even those are close. Other than those, anything with Gifts Ungiven and/or Pernicious Deed can be pretty rough. There’s not much you can do against those decks aside from playing a different deck, as they’re just naturally good against you.

PC: Tom LaPille recently quoted you as the source of a decklist he took to a second place finish at a PTQ in Ohio. He seemed to disagree with you about some of your positions on Next Level Blue. Tom is a very controversial figure these days. At the end of the day, is Tom LaPille good at Magic?

GT: Hmm… I was talking to him today, pretty much on this very subject. I think he is a very solid player, but his mental game isn’t very good. He is far too easily put on tilt, which you might not know just from reading his articles.

PC: What are your thoughts on the changes to the PT schedule and level system?

GT: I understand that they have to make changes and I’m fine with that. The invention of the level system to begin with was a great change from the end of the year payout.

PC: Yeah.

GT: However, the way they have to make the announcements (at the end of the year, after people have already tried to level up and such) is just really bad timing. I understand that they probably decide when to do this based on end of the year sales and such, but it works out very poorly for the player because they recently synchronized the schedule to be for a calendar year.

PC: Okay.

GT: It wasn’t always like that, and if it were a 2008/09 season with Worlds taking place in the middle of the year, it would be easier to make these types of announcements at Jan 1 and still have people be able to prepare for those changes for the next season.

PC: Go on.

GT: Overall, I don’t like the changes because of how it affected my friends, namely Cheon and LSV. They worked really hard to get Level 6 and 5 respectively, and now they find out that they’re not getting what they worked for. I think the new system helps the Level 2s and 3s but ends up hurting the real pros. It’s going to be really sad when there aren’t any Japanese at American Grand Prix tournaments, or any exciting pro point races, since I can’t really see anyone who isn’t independently wealthy attending all these tournaments.

PC: I am going, and I am a poor Blue Mage trying to make it in a Green Mage’s world.

GT: Awesome! Are you going to Europe for GPs and such?

PC: Yeah, I am going to try to go infinite.

GT: That will be exciting for me.

PC: Heh.

GT: I can’t wait to root you on from my computer.

PC: Okay, I’ve gotta go in a minute. Any final thoughts you would like to share to help PTQ players?

GT: Remember, you don’t have to play the best deck. In Extended (or even Standard) there are plenty of viable decks capable of winning tournaments. Play something you know how to play well, as that will give you the best chance of winning.

PC: Cool, thanks for your time Gerry. Talk to you later.

GT: Talk to you later!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”