Innovations – The Final Extended Guide for Pro Tour: Berlin

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Monday, October 27th – Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin is busy preparing for the fast approaching Extended Pro Tour in Berlin. Today’s Innovations reflects the fruits of his work, breaking down his personal Extended Metagame going into the weekend’s festivities. If you’re serious about Extended, Patrick defines the boundaries of this intriguing new format…

Pro Tour: Berlin is but days away (and for some of us, mere meters). This Extended format is one of the most fresh and exciting in years, as it features the debut of a rotation that saw seven sets leave, three sets enter, and a format-defining card (Sensei’s Divining Top) now joining Skullclamp, Aether Vial, and Disciple of the Vault on the banned list. There are a few decks suspected of being a notch above the field, but on the whole, the format is wide open.

This article aims to sum up current Extended and where it stands as of the Pro Tour this weekend.

First, the Tier 1. I have talked about these decks before, but this guide is my final contribution before the PT, so I would like to list my current builds.

The most popular strategy in the format will most likely prove to be Zoo. While Standard is dominated by decks that play the best control spells of every color, Extended sees the same phenomenon on the aggro side. I have already listed some stock Zoo lists over the past couple of weeks, but let me branch out a little and share a somewhat teched-out build.

This list features the standard Nacatl, Ape, Bob, Goyf, Helix, and Tribal Flames. It has some interesting twists, such as a little Ranger of Eos Package (Billy Moreno talked about that last week). It features Jitte, as that is a really powerful tool for ripping open many match-ups, including the mirror. The Dorans give you a little more late-game punch and help win the important mirror match. They are also nice against Cranial Plating and Firespout, two cards that win the game against you outright if unchecked.

The Canonists are chosen over Teegs as you can put two in play at once to lock many storm players out. The fact that he is an artifact to power up Goyf is cute. The mana requirements are bent around Doran and Figure of Destiny, so I felt Sculler was not ideal. Teeg is certainly an option if you suspect more Tron and other big mana decks.

The manabase is particularly interesting, as it features less variety in lands than most Zoo lists. This list’s manabase is inspired by the Sam Black (of U.S. National Team fame) suggestion of trips Stomping Grounds and trips Godless Shrines, as those are the two you want to open on every game.

The sideboard has its eye on the mirror, with Kitchen Finks and Ranger of Eos providing more staying power than other lists, especially when backed by the Jitte. The rest of your sideboard is dedicated to your “bad match-ups.” See the theory that many Zoo players have is that their baseline strategy will beat 50% of decks out there. Another 25% of your matches are the mirror, which we are configured to have edge against. The remaining 25% is supposedly made up of your soft match-ups, Storm and Affinity. As a result, we attack both of those decks from multiple angles to ensure we regain much needed percentage.

The Grudges are slightly favored over the Katakis as they have more cross-over applications such as artifact mana, Jittes, and Shackles. The Pyrostatic Pillar, somewhat ironically, backs up the Canonist rather than Teeg, in anticipation of Pyroclasm or Firespout.

Up next we have Affinity. This deck has not changed much in the past couple of weeks for me, but all I can say is, if you can’t beat ‘em…

Not a lot to see here. The point is that this is the list that a lot of pros have been testing with because this list is quick, consistent, and deadly. It destroys most builds of Zoo game 1, mostly on the strength of Master of Etherium as well as the “Affinity” mechanic. You can’t be sure of how they will sideboard against you, but you can be fairly sure it costs 2, hence a combination of Spell Snares and Seal of Fires in the board to give you a fighting chance.

Like Dredge last season, you plan on winning game 1 with Affinity. Then, all you have to do is pull off one of the next two, one of which sees you on the play. Kataki is just about the worst thing that can happen to you, so you make some concessions in terms of speed by adding some versatile answers. I have always particularly enjoyed Springleaf Drum into Spell Snare. Somehow, they never see it coming.

Storm gives you a relatively tough game 1, as they are almost a turn faster than you. As a result, we combat them from a variety of angles, locking them with Ethersworn Canonist and using the threat of Stifle to slow them down.

The mirror is very annoying and can get pretty bogged down when both players are moving Modular counters around. Hurkyl’s Recall is almost unbeatable in these games, serving as a one-sided Upheaval. Remember to bring in your Spell Snares, as they counter Ravagers and Platings, sure, but also Hurkyl’s and Grudge. By the way, Hurkyl’s may be sick in the mirror, but it is not actually that good in many decks against Affinity. Typically, all it does is give you two free turns, which is solid, but nowhere near the blowout that Shatterstorm or Kataki is. However, obviously, Affinity cannot use those in the mirror, and two free turns is usually about 57 damage.

As a whole, this build of Affinity crushes most decks that are not fully prepared, and some decks may sideboard 4 Hurkyl’s Recalls or some other such and still be looking at a losing proposition (Faeries, I am looking at you). At some point you have to decide if you are going to be the guy who spends 4-7 sideboard slots trying to fight The Problem, or are you going to load up your sideboard with technology for other match-ups and just hope to dodge. Remember, at various times throughout last season, I advocated playing no anti-dredge cards, just banking on everyone else to do the hating for you. Still, the question is far from settled as to whether or not that is a realistic strategy, given how easy and popular Affinity is sure to be.

Finally, we have Storm. There are a variety of ways to approach the Storm mechanic this time around, ranging from Dragonstorm to Grapeshot, Plunge (Tendrils) to Empty the Warrens. Here is a storm list that is quite potent, helping define the format in terms of speed.

This list is a little more polished than my original Ad Nauseam list, using Ponder to help set up for the big turn. The maindeck Chain of Vapor replaced Pyrite Spellbomb on account of working better with Peer through Depths, as well as occasionally helping build a little Storm or stopping a lethal Master of Etherium. The Desperate Rituals now have a place in this build so as to help speed the deck up even further, with a de-emphasis on Pentad Prism, since it is really not that good with Desire.

I have continued to find three to be the right number of Tendrils, as this gives you plenty of chance to remove one from the game early without having to use your entire library to find one remaining kill card. Sometimes you just need to Tendrils for value.

The sideboard for this TEPS list covers a lot of ground for only 15 cards. First of all, you need to be able to address cards like Gaddock Teeg and Ethersworn Canonist, hence Slaughter Pact and Firespout. Slaughter Pact has other applications against Affinity and can help build storm when you are going off. Firespout is just a blowout against Zoo and can buy you so much time. It is chosen over Pyroclasm on account of Wild Nacatl and Kird Ape setting the bar for creatures in this format.

Chain of Vapor is also an important part of your anti-hate, as it combats troublesome permanents such as Thorns, Trinisphere, and Pyrostatic Pillar. It is important to keep your sideboard as Peer-able as possible, Peer is an important tool for finding the cards you will need to combat hate, particularly when you are not sure which kind you are up against.

The Pact of Negations are obviously just to force through the combo, being a fantastic way to ensure your Seething Song or Manamorphose resolve, while building storm. Thoughtseize plays a similar role, but can be used proactively against other combo decks, such as Swans, the Mirror, and other random combos.

Much like Affinity, TEPS plans on winning game 1 and then pulling off a tough one through hate after sideboarding, very much appreciating being on the play game 3. While other strategies may challenge TEPS on speed, few can weather the storm of hate that TEPS can and still put up good numbers.

Now we move to the Tier 2. These strategies are all viable, but don’t necessarily have the raw intrinsic power as the first three. I mean, seriously, 3/3 for one? Really?


Then again, I suppose Master of Etherium is a 10/10 for 3 that Crusades your team, and I got a turn 1 kill against Cheon last night (Rite, Rite, Song, Manamorphose, Mind’s Desire…) so this format is obviously prone to some pretty sick plays.

I want to cram as many decklists as I can into this week’s article, so I will save the commentary for the Tier 2 decks, beyond a few brief notes. This Tron list does not take full advantage of Gifts, but operates under the philosophy that if you Gifts, you are probably doing alright anyway. You will notice a shortage of robots, but frankly I kind of hate them. All I ever want to do is Decree. You know what I mean?

The sideboard seems random, but it is built with Gifts in mind, as well as the fact that Storm is a real hard game 1, and you need all the percentage you can get against Affinity. Triskelion is a classic weapon against Teeg, and Threads is insurance against Zoo. The Academy Ruins is important in the board as it lets you wish for Tolaria West, Academy Ruins, and whatever you really want. This is too slow a strategy against the field as a whole, but against a slower opponent can be quite devastating.

The deck in our gauntlet is a favorite on Magic League. The formula is simple: combine all the Red Rituals you can with a bunch of broken things that should not be possible on turn 1.

The basic idea is to present the opponent with 1 or 2 threats that are so disruptive or deadly within the first turn or two that they never get a chance to set up their game plan. The deck is wild and sporadic, sometimes seeming unbeatable with turn 1 Deus of Calamity, while other times looking miserable (when you draw Gemstone Caverns). The only interesting note is that Simian Spirit Guide is a fine man to equip with a Jitte, so don’t be scared.

This format is not friendly to control decks, but let’s look at one attempt at such.

This deck is basically an attempt at Five-Color Control in the new Extended, though it borrows aspects from both Gifts Ungiven in Kamigawa Block Constructed and The Rock of every format for years. Thus, Gifts Rock is a perennial favorite, though it seems it will take a bit of imagination to help it break from this boring shell.

Obviously the sideboard is totally all about Gifts Ungiven, and is your chance to live out the fantasy of playing every random hate or answer card you ever wanted.

This particular build focuses on the Big Three, and will probably have the most trouble with various levels of Blue.

Haterade style decks have classically used a wide variety of so-called “hate cards” designed to pray on popular tournament cards and strategies. This particular build has a lot of mana acceleration, which it uses to deploy quick mana disruption in the form of Root Maze (note the lack of fetch lands), Trinisphere, and Thorns. Gaddock Teeg provides additional disruption, ensuring that many players who employ netdecks or all-rare decks get stuck in a bad situation.

The combination of Kitchen Finks, Loxodon Hierarch, Wilt-Leaf Liege, and equipment allows you to keep pace with even the most aggressive of beatdown strategies. The sideboard offers even more ways to “hate” out the opponent, and is easily customized.

The classic flaw with this strategy is the severe lack of card draw. You truly are at the mercy of your drawstep every turn. Some have taken to adding cards like Dark Confidant, or even Harmonize, but these moves pull the deck in a different direction and often do not allow you to fully take advantage of the “Root Maze with no Fetchlands” strategy. One interesting new innovation has been the addition of Tallowisp to a Haterade-style strategy. This is amusing, but without Armadillo Cloak, I am not sure what it is you are getting that is so good.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of decks, as Level Blue, Faeries, Burn, and traditional Doran are all viable, as are various wacky combo decks. This is more just a sneak peek into what people are going to do. I have seen some other crazy stuff, but I am just being straight up with you guys… when people show me decks in confidence, I am sure you understand that I can’t write about them the week before the PT. A PTQ season is the perfect time for me to publish articles containing every bit of up to the minute information I have at my disposal. The PT, however, requires a certain degree of politics, as I wouldn’t even have access to all of the decks that I learn about, if not for being able to keep the designer’s confidence.

I will make you guys a deal. Cut me some slack regarding publishing “format-defining technology” for this PT, and I will write my article next week about what I would play at States, including exhaustive playtesting and sideboarding plans.

What am I going to play this weekend? Well, to be honest, I really don’t know yet. I am torn between trying to make some kind of crazy control deck or just playing one of a couple wacky combo decks. Story of my life. Hopefully a few more days of playtesting and the truth will come out.

I am out of time this week, as I am spending every minute I can preparing for PT: Berlin this weekend. Wish me luck. See you guys next week, hopefully with stories of great success.

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”