Insider Information – Extended Musings

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Tuesday, January 12th – Cedric Phillips, purveyor of the linear aggro strategies, has something to say about Extended it all its glory. While there are many decks that he believes are below par, the rarefied air of a healthy Constructed format is enough to get his creative juices flowing…

Blah blah Extended!



Yeah, this is going to be a rant.

Deal with it!

Extended is back, so I guess I should talk about it a little. I really wanted to talk about my seventeen-match winning streak with Vampires, including how I was 10-0 against Jund during that run, but Extended is on everyone’s mind. So, I guess I’ll do the right thing and talk about the brand new Constructed format.

And by “brand new,” I actually mean brand new!

Look, you guys can work on Scapeshift all you want, but that deck sucks, and you are fooling yourself if you believe otherwise. I tried sleeving up Coiling Oracle and Wood Elves over the past week, and I was mighty embarrassed each time I cast them. Yeah, it’s a one-card kill, but it easy to disrupt, easy to overrun, and it has no shot in hell of winning now that everyone knows about it. It was all over MTGO for a week, and then performed terribly in both of the online PTQs.

And in the PTQ in Seattle…

And in the PTQ in Minneapolis…

Got the hint yet? Scapeshift (I have a clever name for it if you remove the F) is just not that good a deck. Plain and simple.

But what is good? Blitz Zoo is pretty sweet even though people don’t want to play it. Owen “Turntables” Turtenwald got second place with it in the first online PTQ, beating three burn decks along the way.

Speaking of bad decks… wow, Burn is pathetic! Burn is supposed to prey on a deck like Zoo since it takes a bunch of damage from its lands, but if the Zoo player knows it is playing against a Burn deck, they can adjust their strategy and just not take as much damage this way. That means that the burn deck really only has a game 1 advantage against its best matchup. I understand the deck is cheap, and that it almost won the first online PTQ, but almost winning a PTQ means you didn’t win, so it doesn’t matter.

Don’t play Burn. Trust me.

Another sweet deck that a lot of people are overlooking is Hive Mind. Hive Mind is a deck that I don’t think has gotten a proper look, and is probably a lot better than people think. I’ve played against it a few times online, and it is much more consistent than I thought it would be considering it needs to ramp up to six, find the Hive Mind, and have a Pact of the Titan/Pact of Negation in hand.

Here is a list that won a tournament somewhere in the world!

This list doesn’t look very clean and can certainly be improved upon quite a lot, but the point is the concept is pretty solid and completely overlooked. I would not be surprised at all if this deck won a PTQ due to people being underprepared for a strategy like this.

As a lot of us know, Doran won an online PTQ. Calcano is an acquaintance of mine, so congrats to him for finally winning a PTQ. Here is his decklist:

I’m not the biggest fan of this decklist as the numbers feel a little sketchy (3 Doran the Siege Tower, 3 Kitchen Finks, 3 Thoughtseize and 2 Duress instead of 4 and 1), but Doran has some draws that are just unbeatable and he picked a great time to play a deck with a good combo matchup and good enough Zoo/Burn matchup. I wouldn’t want to play against Thopter Foundry control very much with this deck, but that deck is underplayed.

Speaking of the Thopter Foundry control deck, I am close to 100% positive that that deck is going to begin dominating the format at some point. LSV and Ochoa did excellent with the deck at Worlds, and I see no reason for the deck to be further developed and continue destroying people. I think the deck is criminally underplayed, and will rise to the top around Grand Prix: Oakland.

Do I have a decklist for you? Of course not! I don’t play Blue! I play linear aggro decks like Kithkin, Affinity, and Vampires!

I do have a pretty cool Doran decklist I have been having success with online…

The above is a 5-color Doran deck with a ton of very powerful cards (Doran, Goyf, War Monk, Helix), cards that people don’t play around but are still effective if they do (Countersquall, Bant Charm)… and Lightning Angel.

Yes, Lightning Angel.

The card has actually been one of the best cards in the deck during my testing. It flies over for a lot of damage while you gum up the ground against aggressive decks. It interacts favorably with Doran. It generates a quick clock due to haste, and it actually blocks well because of its four toughness.

The manabase is still a work in progress, but having multiple lands that tap for every color in combination with Reflecting Pool set the standard for over a year, so I am attempting to do it again here. Exotic Orchard has been surprisingly good, and I probably will add another one as it taps for a lot of different colors of mana in Extended.

The nice thing about this deck is you can play just about anything without much trouble. Want to beat a combo deck? You can easily cast Meddling Mage and Gaddock Teeg. Want to kick the crap out of Zoo? Kitchen Finks, Rhox War Monk, Tarmogoyf, and Loxodon Hierarch are easy to include. Control annoying you? Well, you are playing a three-mana 5/5 in addition to Gaddock Teeg to shut down Wrath effects and Meddling Mage to stop other annoyances. Not to mention that Countersquall and Bant Charm are counterspells too!

I was going to play this deck heading into Austin, but didn’t have enough testing behind it to justify it. I actually think this deck is pretty real as long as the kinks get worked out. That manabase above is not perfect, but it is pretty close. The basics are probably wrong, and Gemstone Mine is pretty unimpressive, but I know there is something there. Give it a go if you feel up to it.

Now, back to decks that suck!

Hmm, I’ve run out of examples. But that is a good thing!

The nice thing about Extended (and Legacy) is that the format is so wide open. This is what Constructed Magic should be like! Not like Standard and all the Divinations that are flying around. That card is just embarrassing!

Extended is very wide open right now, and the addition of Worldwake for Grand Prix: Oakland is going to shake the foundations even more. I am really looking forward to it. While Scapeshift and Zoo are getting all the press right now, don’t ever overlook a Blue deck. Faeries may be laying low, but those cards are too good not to seeing heavy play. The same goes for the card Cryptic Command. Blue may be comically bad in Standard, but the power is there to make a really good Blue-based deck in Extended. I feel like the first person to do that (*cough* Japan *cough*) will really take a tournament by storm.

I do know a couple of things for sure:

1.) Don’t play Burn. Seriously. Don’t.

2.) Don’t forget about Dredge at any point during the season.

3.) Don’t forget about Affinity at any point during the season.

4.) Blitz Zoo is better than you think.

5.) All-In Red isn’t the best Blood Moon deck (wink wink).

Take a deep breath. Breathe it all in. Got it?

This is what a real Constructed format feels like. No more Blightnings. No more Bloodbraid Elves. No more spinning the Wheel of Fortune. And I hope to God no more casting of Divination.

It’s time to play some skill-intensive, fun Magic. The beginning of the new year seems as good a time as any.

Good luck at your PTQs, your Standard and Legacy Opens, or whatever other event you are slinging spells at in the coming days and weeks.

Cedric Phillips

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