Magical Hack – Standard, Extended, and Draft

Read Sean McKeown every Friday... at StarCityGames.com!
Friday, March 14th – Rather than anything deep and expansive about any one format, it seems I’ve got a lot on my plate to do with a lot of different formats. Morningtide is now finally available on Magic Online, and last weekend’s Grand Prix featured the Standard format while this weekend’s Grand Prix features Extended once again. So we are going to look a little bit at Standard, Extended, and Draft, because each has some interesting progress going on.

Rather than anything deep and expansive about any one format, it seems I’ve got a lot on my plate to do with a lot of different formats. Morningtide is now finally available on Magic Online, and last weekend’s Grand Prix featured the Standard format while this weekend’s Grand Prix features Extended once again. So we are going to look a little bit at Standard, Extended, and Draft, because each has some interesting progress going on.

1. Morningtide in Online Drafts

We all know reasonably well at this point how Lorwyn-Lorwyn-Morningtide drafts work, having knelt at the feet of Jon Finkel (or at least the Draft Viewer) to learn a few things we didn’t already know about the format. So with lessons like that available, me going into LLM drafting on MTGO would be the rough equivalent of The Ferrett taking his expertise of casual formats and expounding upon Vintage because he’s read a few Stephen Menendian articles… I for one have not been winning very much in LLM.

But rather than stop there and say “that was fast,” I do want to talk about my efforts to remedy this shortcoming. I’m usually pretty quick at picking up new formats, but so far seem not to truly grasp the changes Morningtide brings to the triple-Lorwyn drafts I had otherwise considered myself quite adept at… so to figure out how this Morningtide stuff works, I could do one of two things. I could just keep throwing packs at the problem and hope that if I do enough LLM 4322s that I’ll have been able to use the safety net of “only losing a little money at a time” (thanks to the 4322’s nature of rewarding even a single match win) to figure out how to draft LLM before I completely run out of money. Or I could do something else, while the Release Weeks are letting us…

That’s right. To better understand Morningtide, draft triple Morningtide. I figured if I needed some remedial drafting to understand Morningtide, having to figure out how this thing works by itself might give me the best advice as to how to alter my drafting to fit it into the third pack. However, once you start drafting Morningtide, you start to pick up on a few things:

Rogues are ridiculous if you can get them.
Kithkin are ridiculous if you can get them.
Shaman and Warriors are okay, and can lead to some pretty silly decks if everyone else is fighting over the above two.
Wizards… I’d rather slit my wrists than draft Wizards in triple Morningtide.

As someone who is in no way prone to contemplations of suicide, it has to be pretty awful for me to even make a joke about it. And that is Wizards in Morningtide. For the other four archetypes, I’m going to discuss a draft deck of my own that I put together in the format, but the only Wizards deck I saw win a match was all Stonybrook Schoolmasters, Meadowboons, and Mothdust Changelings, as in literally those three were his 15 creatures, near as I could tell. I imagine you can’t guarantee this will happen… even if, well, you should be able to guarantee that you get passed all the Schoolmasters at the table, if you want them, presumably because everyone else knows they’d rather die in a fire than end up taking Wizards. And while this person did beat me… it took three games, and I’d have beaten him on the play, so even the “nuts” Wizard deck isn’t that nuts.

4 Bosk Banneret
2 Rage Forger
2 War-Spike Changeling
2 Game-Trail Changeling
2 Pyroclast Consul
1 Lightning Crafter
1 Orchard Warden
1 Wolf-Skull Shaman
1 Spitebellows

2 Earthbrawn
1 Shard Volley
1 Roar of the Crowds
1 Thornbite Staff
1 Diviner’s Wand

9 Forest
9 Mountain

What I learned about Shamans here is “Lightning Crafter is insane,” as it earned a turn 3 concession from a Kithkin player who was never going to be able to assemble two creatures to remove it with Weight of Conscience, at least not before he died. I also learned that the Bannerets are really good, in your tribe, as I frequently had draws with two of them and going turn 2 Banneret, turn 3 Banneret #2, Thornbite Staff for free, War-Spike Changeling with a free Equip is so disgustingly absurd it defies further discussion. Why yes, I did win that one. There were also games when I would just power down that one Orchard Warden and start gaining ridiculous amounts of life by dropping Game-Trail Changelings… and games where I got Rage Forger draws that were so fast and so damaging to my opponent they were blown out the moment I cast it. For one Red mana, on turn 4, pumping four more of his friends including the Game-Trail Changeling that preceded him that turn.

Because of the redundancy of the small set, and the hyper-attenuated focus on being one of the five classes, I’m reminded an awful lot of Coldsnap draft. But because you can actually draft good decks and have fun, and not just lose to the ridiculous Ripple draw right off the bat, I’ve found it enjoyable rather than tedious and painful… and so far it has been somewhat informative about learning how the tribes in the third pack might alter the interactions of the tribes in the first.

For Warriors, I had less of a “great” deck, though it was good enough to get to the finals of the draft. I was actually a good deal less impressed with them than I was with the Shamans, but that might just be because this Shaman deck was quite strong, thanks to the Rage Forgers and Lightning Crafter I had among my Shaman-y bombs.

1 Obsidian Battle-Axe
2 Shard Volley
2 Earthbrawn
1 Hunting Triad
1 Cream of the Crop
1 Roar of the Crowds

3 Brighthearth Banneret
2 Seething Pathblazer
2 Ambassador Oak
2 Game-Trail Changeling
2 Winnower Patrol
1 Bramblewood Paragon
1 War-Spike Changeling
1 Vengeful Firebrand
1 Elvish Warrior

9 Mountain
8 Forest

This was actually not the deck as I drafted it, as I had decided initially to splash a pair of Violet Pall off of the Murmuring Bosk I’d opened and a pair of Swamps, but having actually played with that deck it became readily apparent that I wanted to be focused and aggressive, not messing around with bad mana and five-mana splashed removal spells. I did at best “okay” with the original version, and cruised to victory after “fixing” my deck to be the more focused Warrior engine it should have been, so I am presenting what I should have done instead of what I did do, as the Warrior deck was the first one I tried in MMM draft and I was not yet aware of how redundant and how fast the format can be if everyone has a good deck.

One thing I certainly learned was how good your tribe’s Equipment could be. You saw I had the Thornbite Staff in my Shaman deck, but that wasn’t the first draft… here, with the Battle-Axe, the deck took off in ridiculously aggressive fashion and often the Axe came at a deep discount even on turn 3. But this wasn’t the most impressive of the Red-based decks I drafted… let’s look at the Soldiers and Rogues and we’ll come back to that thought.

For the Rogues, I tried several times to go Rogues but most of them saw me getting cut off before I could succeed at my appointed task. Mostly I would pick up some early picks and a Pack’s Disdain or two, get cut out of Rogues and have to do something else, which generally meant marrying those Pack’s Disdains with the Soldiers that were coming much too late… Burrenton Bombardiers shouldn’t table. And so the Rogues and Soldiers were inevitably intertwined in my drafting, because Soldiers lost when I wasn’t splashing Black or Red (“a removal color”) and tried to lean on just the White removal options, because Coordinated Barrage is solid removal but does nothing for utility creatures. (When I lost to the Schoolmaster deck, above, it was because I had drafted Blue with my Soldier deck and couldn’t kill a creature that didn’t attack or block. And even then I only missed by inches, not feet, to give you an idea of how good a decent Soldier deck is.)

5 Ballyrush Banneret
3 Order of the Golden Cricket
2 Mosquito Guard
2 Burrenton Bombardiers
2 Kithkin Zephyrnaut
2 Changeling Sentinel
1 Moonglove Changeling

3 Pack’s Disdain
2 Swell of Courage
1 Cloak and Dagger
1 Weight of Conscience

10 Plains
6 Swamp

And here I learned oh dear God can your Bannerets be amazing, when they also beat down for two a turn. It occurred to me that Cloak and Dagger was great on Zephyrnauts and flying cricket-knights, and I was not disappointed by it in this application. In this deck I had so much Reinforce it was brutal, my opponent couldn’t make a decent block without my man just becoming huge instead, and if he didn’t block… well, Swell of Courage, you can guess the rest. I wasn’t anywhere close to losing a game with this deck, even though it looks so simple and straightforward. It just happens to be that the “straightforward” is for your jugular, and the opening of Mosquito Guard, Banneret, triple two-drop is basically impossible to beat. Worse yet… if one of those two-drops was a second Banneret — of which I had five — then Bombardiers and Zephyrnauts can be among those three creatures planted that turn.

It was patently ridiculous. But these are the strengths of the format — and these are the things I must know, to accurately weight the value of cards in the third pack when making decisions in the first two packs while we’re playing with the Lorwyn I know and understand.

And then there were Rogues…

4 Prickly Boggart
3 Latchkey Faerie
3 Moonglove Changeling
2 Frogtosser Banneret
1 Stinkdrinker Bandit
1 Oona’s Blackguard

4 Pack’s Disdain
2 Noggin Whack
1 Cloak and Dagger
1 Door of Destinies
1 Violet Pall

10 Swamp
7 Island

Here we learned the strengths of the Rogues, by picking Prickly Boggarts over “much better cards” to make sure we always had a Prowl enabler. If my opponent mulliganed… they were dead, one Noggin Whack did them in. If my opponent kept a slow draw… well, I sure do generate a lot of forward motion with Prowled-out Latchkey Faeries. And if my opponent could finally contain my Prickly Boggart… I had three more where that came from. The Door of Destinies was a power Rare that never actually came up, so don’t look at that and say “how lucky,” since I never once drew it. The synergy of the Rogues working in tandem came from the fast removal spells and Prowl action, and the fact that everything really interesting in the deck has evasion or somehow pumps the team. As good as Cloak and Dagger was in my Kithkin deck, here it was an order of magnitude better, as you would expect when it can be basically a Bonesplitter (thanks, Banneret!) that can equip for free and makes my guy untargetable to boot. Many a Prickly Boggart snuck through the defenses for lethal damage as a useless Coordinated Barrage waited in-hand.

But even getting “the good rogue deck,” this was the most ridiculous deck I drafted in the format, which defies classification as “Warriors” or “Shamans” due to its equal application of both.

5 Sunfire Shaman
3 Brighthearth Banneret
3 Seething Pathblazer
3 War-Spike Changeling
1 Rage Forger
1 Spitebellows
1 Taurean Mauler

3 Shard Volley
2 Roar of the Crowd
1 Diviner’s Wand

17 Mountains

All Elementals all the time, with fast beatdown, fast and meaningful removal, and as a back-up: an Equipment card that lets me go “to the air!” and also draws extra cards, perfect in combination with Seething Pathblazer or just to hammer home an otherwise-stabilized game on the opponents’ part. However, if you think it’s awfully hard to stabilize a game against an opponent with two Sunfire Shamans ready to bat clean-up, you’d be right.

So what did I learn? Well so far I seem to have learned that drafting triple-Morningtide can be quite profitable… as a small set with a few highly valuable rares, it’s not hard to pick up a few of the valuable cards just by sitting down and drafting a few times. I also learned that there are powerful Class synergies to work with Lorwyn’s already-powerful race synergies, so giving yourself a chance to find the intersect between these two things can be quite a happy day indeed.

Oh… and that the Bannerets are ridiculous if you can get them in multiples. I imagine adding Bosk Banneret to your non-Shaman-y Treefolk decks still works just fine. And perhaps next week we can look at these lessons in application by starting in on LLM drafting… but in the meantime, I’m going to catch some more MMM drafts while they are still letting me.

2. Standard

The format for Pro Tour: Hollywood is interesting to all attendees, but not necessarily so much for, say, those who are looking at Regionals for their next main Standard tournament… that will, after all, both come after the results of Hollywood telling us what is good in the format, which will also include Shadowmoor as well.

And if you haven’t had your first look at how very different Shadowmoor will be from the Lorwyn you are used to… take a look at THIS little promo that ran on MagicTheGathering.com earlier this week. It’s not just different from Lorwyn, by all appearances it is different than anything… as you will note if you look at a hybrid mana symbol that is “{2 / B}” and try to figure out the cost of the spell for something like Counterbalance or Dark Confidant, or marvel at the idea of casting Black spells with colorless mana in a decidedly non-Black deck.

But looking at the Grand Prix results, following on the back of the Star City Games $5K tournament a few weeks back and built up a bit from the early Grand Prix Trial results we saw in Japan before that, we knew of several good decks going into the event… the most threatening of which seemed to be the U/W Reveillark deck. Further development on Constructed formats, though, is what the Japanese deck technologists are all about. One need look no further than “just” Tsuyoshi Fujita to see some startling Constructed revelations. An Elf deck with Heritage Druid… and eight man-lands? Impressive. Blue-Green Tempo, with the power of Vendilion Clique as both beatdown creature and pseudo-Duress? While I find this one harder to get behind, I do look forward to seeing further development.

But better yet… for those who love a Mountain, at least… it seems Hall of Famer Fujita-san has had something of an influential hand in crafting the mono-Red deck that cruised to 9-0 on the first day, a sexy package of burn spells that promises room for further development:

15 Mountain
4 Mutavault
3 Ghitu Encampment
2 Horizon Canopy

4 Countryside Crusher
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Keldon Marauders
2 Greater Gargadon

4 Incinerate
4 Lash Out
4 Rift Bolt
4 Shard Volley
4 Sulfurous Blast
2 Shock

The sideboard doesn’t really bear repeating… Dragon’s Claw is not exactly a card you need in this metagame, or want in your 75 during any Constructed tournament I’ve ever seen, and other than Manabarbs against Reveillark-sized control decks and Cryoclasm versus Islands, his sideboard choices didn’t really seem to come into play very much. And if you can get to 9-0 with half a sideboard… Hollywood, watch out for the Red deck!

For the 9-0 Day 1 Decks, check here… and note the 62-card deck at 9-0, putting further proof to the now-months-old notion that while there clearly are distinct advantages to playing a 60-card deck, opting to play above 60 because you can’t shave the deck down without blindly making cuts that could hurt the overall performance might just be the less-damaging choice sometimes. I imagine his opponents were quite confused at the upper tables if they noted his deck was above the 60 it started at… but that isn’t the real story of the tournament, in a nutshell.

That story comes with the winner’s deck:

The Faeries are back in town… following up a quiet run since Worlds when their initial favor by Zvi Moshowitz among others propelled it as one of the most-played archetypes on Day One, only to have none remaining when the Top 8 rolled around. With only two cards from Morningtide in the deck, it’s little surprise then that Mutavault and Bitterblossom are commanding the top prices on Magic Online this week. For a version using more Morningtide cards, we need look no further than his last opponent, Olivier Ruel:

This gives us our first look at Notorious Throng, which seems to have been powerful and interesting every time it came up, even if it wasn’t Prowled… and Oona’s Blackguard, in a non-Rogues deck, which Olivier had said by the time the Top 8 rolled around “didn’t really fit in.” Now if you can make the finals of a Grand Prix with a weak card as a four-of, the other 56 cards have got to be pretty good… so in between all the consternation about Reveillark in Standard, expect to see some interesting things with land-heavy Faerie aggro/control decks beating up on those same Reveillark decks in coming months.

Of course, things will shift a bit with Shadowmoor, as we get an entirely different look that should have some power of its own… and, presumably, might lend a hand with the Tribal theme of Lorwyn, as it is supposed to be a dark reflection and “reflections” tend to at least look something like their original. On the other side of that looking-glass, then, I would expect to see some more Elves that might explode in the Elf deck, some more Faeries to consider in the deck that just won the Grand Prix, and so on.

But in addition to a metagame change from just turning the winning deck over to the Faerie deck in a Reveillark-heavy field, and noting the general failure of R/G Mana Ramp to make the Top Eight despite doing reasonably well on Day 1, we have a few juicy tidbits to look at, courtesy of a Hall of Famer, that might just have to completely revise what we thought we knew… such as “Heritage Druid=Constructed Unplayable.” With over a month before the Shadowmoor pre-release, we still have plenty of exploring of the format to do with these tidbits… and then before Hollywood, and Regionals, things will be shaken up aplenty with the release of Shadowmoor.

3. Extended

Extended is just a totally wide-open format, as you’ll note if you track the weeks’ worth of Top 8 results as available on MagicTheGathering.com. Michael J. Flores has been tracking results consistently with his Swimming With Sharks column, and we are seeing a constant turn-over of Top 8 decks. Following GP: Vancouver, it was a pair of wins for U/G Tron, and one win each for Dredge (tied for most Top 8’s by deck archetype that week, with Doran Rock), TEPS (coming out of nowhere and following right behind Doran and Dredge on the leaderboards that week), Previous Level Blue, R/G Loam, Mono-Red Burn, Sullivan’s Flow Rock design and a win in the single Top 8 attendance put up for Beasts Rock.

Sadly at the time of my article’s deadline, there are no Extended results from this past weekend’s PTQs. This is not helpful, so I told Craig I needed the extra day to get to see the Top 8 results for this past weekend… since things will be much better for it. I imagine Craig will now inevitably grumble about my negatively impacting his Thursday beauty sleep, so we’ll thank him, leave him his window for grumbling, and move on to discuss the real meat of Extended going into the Grand Prix in Philadelphia.

The format is one that is constantly in motion — just watching the way things shift around, week in and week out, seems almost to be telling the story of two or three different formats, each with a reasonably complex metagame. Normally my habit this late in the season is to track all of the Top 8 results as they ebb and flow, come up with an intricate chart to show how things come back and forth from week to week. And it seems that this is such a good idea, that it’s now one of the statistical functions the Star City Games deck database can perform: a Season Summary for this PTQ season. However for my own personal uses, charting out the recent metagame trends, this actually goes back too far to be really useful… it weights Doran decks as the best achiever because it has the highest number of Top 8 finishes this season, when it is the ebb and flow of the last three weeks I truly care about. Looking at just the North American finishes (presumably… I don’t exactly know where all their data points are coming from) for the last three weeks, and correcting the last week’s results with the presumably more accurate results tally for last weekend as from Flores’ Swimming with Sharks, yesterday:

Deck Wins, 2/24-Now Top 8s, 2/24-Now Week: 2/24 Week: 3/02 Week: 3/09
UG Tron 4 11 2 4 5
The Extended Perfect Storm 3 13 3 6 4
Death Cloud 3 12 6 4 2
Dredge 2 14 6 7 1
Domain Zoo 2 11 3 3 5
Previous Level Blue 2 7 1 4 2
Monored Burn 2 4 0 2 2
RG Aggro Loam 2 4 0 2 2
Enduring Ideal 1 8 3 3 2
GW Tallowisp 1 5 0 2 3
Next Level Blue 1 5 3 2 0
Sullivan Flow Rock 1 2 1 1 0
Beast Rock 1 2 1 1 0
Chase Rare Control 1 1 1 0 0
Spire Blue 1 1 1 0 0
Doran Rock 0 14 4 7 3
Goblins 0 11 2 5 4
Affinity 0 10 5 5 0
Red Deck Wins 0 8 4 4 0
R/G Aggro (Various) 0 4 0 3 1
B/G/W PT Junk 0 3 1 1 1
Faeries 0 2 0 0 2
UR Storm 0 1 0 0 1
Landstill 0 1 0 1 0
Ninjas! 0 1 0 1 0
Barra Rock 0 1 0 1 0
Gifts Rock 0 1 0 1 0
Heartbeat 0 1 1 0 0

Note also that we are giving a “win” to each deck appearing in the Top 8 at Vancouver, if you are wondering why the numbers look a little staggered. Looking for blips on the radar, we can more or less dismiss anything that only appeared once in the last three weeks as a credible choice to expect to play against — unless, perhaps, it appeared in the last week of play, and thus could be trending upward instead of downward. And so we wave good-bye to Heartbeat, Ninjas!, Landstill, Gifts Rock, Barra Rock (whatever distinguishes that from the other Rock decks), Spire Blue, and Chase Rare Control (the latter two, despite each winning their PTQ… that was so three weeks ago!). And from there we want to try and estimate where the metagame will be at this week, by seeing whether things are trending upward, maintaining their current position, or trending downward… as I would generally expect the same tendencies to continue on into the next week, presuming they are indicative of changes to the format that are playing out now over time.

Trending Downward:
R/G Aggro, Red Deck Wins, Affinity, Beasts Rock, Sullivan Flow Rock, Next Level Blue, Dredge, Death Cloud.

Next Level Blue has been effectively replaced with Previous Level Blue, which is why it is disappearing off the metagame radar. Death Cloud no longer finds that it is pointed at the metagame that is apparent — as a Rock deck of a peculiar flavor, it is only good so long as the decks that it is tuned to beat are present in the metagame, and the metagame seems to have shifted and left it behind since it has an awfully hard time beating a combo deck that isn’t Enduring Ideal. One should note however that Death Cloud won the geographically-closest PTQ the week before, and so there will be at least some portion of players who will follow the ‘local’ trend rather than trying to peg where Death Cloud is on the nationwide trend and stick to their guns despite Death Cloud’s obvious downward trend and whatever the root cause of that is. The real surprises are the apparent downtrend towards Red Deck Wins and R/G Aggro… a mixed pair of decks, likely swapping interchangeable parts, but neither seems to be trending upward while other market-competitors like Domain Zoo and Mono-Red Burn are thriving.

This is after all the nature of market forces in Magic: the Gathering… that which provides the best product or service within its own particular niche thrives, while the weaker competition dies off. For aggressive decks, this means that the less-efficient match winners fall by the wayside while those versions that succeed will then thrive in the ‘aggressive’ portion of the metagame. After all, everybody likes a winner and will happily emulate the things that have brought these consistent finishers success… likely by copying them exactly. Beasts Rock and Sullivan’s Flow Rock haven’t picked up a big showing… though I would expect due to his ‘name’ recognition that one should at least be aware of the Sullivan Flow Rock design, as that should artificially boost its attendance even if the PTQ numbers aren’t really backing up the notion that people are thinking about it.

What is truly surprising here is two clear winners that have been downtreading: Affinity and Dredge. Dredge is actually a monster lurking in ambush, and it’s quite possible that events could conspire to see Dredge perform excellently well: every time it starts to fade out of the spotlight, people start to forget about bringing enough cards to actually beat them, and so (especially amongst players who get to start with three free wins) the tendency to rely on group immunity from the Dredge deck and take back sideboard space to face other matchups with waxes and wanes accordingly. With the presumption that ‘lesser’ players will have the silver bullets to slay the werewolf, and thus few Dredge players will start 3-0, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ‘elite’ class of players neglectful of their proper Dredge hate, with the expectation that no one else in their ‘elite’ class will aim to play Dredge, or at least that they won’t do so in anything approaching large numbers.

This of course means that just as it is downtrending, this might be the exact proper time to play Dredge, because without proper containment the deck really can be a wrecking-ball. Similarly, with Affinity dropping from ‘steady contender’ in prior weeks to ‘not appearing’ at the last week’s Top 8s, one has to wonder… especially since recent adjustments to the Atog / Fatal Frenzy list seem to have solved at least some of the deck’s metagame woes. I would not count Affinity out, regardless of last week’s results, because the prior results are just too strong to discount.

Maintaining Parity:
TEPS, Previous Level Blue, Enduring Ideal, Doran Rock, Goblins, PT Junk

Previous Level Blue had a spike right after the Grand Prix in which it was unveiled, then didn’t quite perform as well this past week, but not so dismally that it completely fell off the radar. While the same results, just from a higher peak, caused me to label Dredge as ‘trending downward’, with a shallower rise for the Blue deck we can look at it and say it is just settling to a small but not absent niche in the metagame. Perfect Storm and Enduring Ideal both maintained good numbers over the entire period, and should be considered staples of the format to have to think about when you choose your deck for this weekend: both whether you should consider playing them, or whether you are soft against them if you do sit across from them. After that, we see the more aggressive sorts of decks… Doran Rock, PT Junk, and Goblins.

Junk just sounds like a less-good version of either Doran Rock or new-Spirit-on-the-block G/W Tallowisp, and so I would tend to think of this as a minor blip on the radar that should get absorbed by one or the other of those two archetypes… but there is no guarantee it will, because players often choose whatever the heck they feel like playing regardless of whether there is a Net-decked ‘better’ option available that is more mainstream and, well, probably better tuned. Leaving us a significant component of the metagame to Doran Rock, which posted shallow numbers after a big week at the start of the month but certainly didn’t fall off the radar, it’s just not the big finisher that it was at the start of the season. The other decks have started to catch up, it seems, and so we play accordingly.

And Goblins… well, we know I loves me a Goblin. I greatly respect the deck and consider it one of the best aggressive options out there, but this is just another element in the story of numerous competing Red decks: Domain Zoo, Mono-Red Burn, Goblins, Red Deck Wins and the R/G-style decks with Quirion Dryads alongside the same Tarmogoyfs that even ‘Red’ Deck Wins considers ubiquitous for inclusion. Among these five, Goblins maintains strength as it is still a good ‘fit’ for the metagame, and thus one I would expect to see in reasonable numbers this weekend, just like we have since the start of February or so.

Trending Upward:
U/G Tron, Domain Zoo, Mono-Red Burn, R/G Aggro Loam, G/W Tallowisp, U/R Storm, Faeries

And here we hit the really interesting stories, the archetypes that are hot at the moment and deserving attention. The U/R Storm deck and Faeries deck are newcomers to the metagame radar, and frankly I know very little about them… at least one of them is covered in greater detail here, again this week’s Swimming With Sharks. The Faeries deck might just be a blip on the radar or might just be the next hot commodity, and will surely draw the eye of at least those who previously favored the wacky Ninja deck if no one else.

So for the real stories on what is going on… it seems that for the ‘aggressive’ portion of the metagame the real winners are currently Domain Zoo and Mono-“ed Burn, with the newcomer “Spirit Stompy” a.k.a. ‘Green/White Tallowisp’ a recent commodity that is grabbing attention and has been for two or three weeks now, ever since Red decks started to be omnipresent across the metagame in a few different flavors. And rounding out these aggressive starters we see a pair of control decks, each using Life from the Loam but for very different purposes… the Red/Green Aggro Loam deck that is loosely based off of early season-winner Ty Dobberton’s R/G Loam deck, which has a hard time against any combo deck ever but can really do unfair things to otherwise fair decks and has a decent time standing up against aggro decks. And then we see U/G Tron, which likewise fits in right at home against these aggro decks… and is likely part of the reason that the Blue decks, regardless of Level, have been stuck at as low a baseline as they have been in recent weeks.

To look at the metagame as a whole, then, I would say we have a flourishing metagame that is hinged on fast creatures and creature-containment, with a distinct axis of “who cares” decks like Dredge, Ideal and TEPS that aim to race the presumably fourth-turn kill of the aggressive decks in true combo deck fashion. Because we have seen solid aggressive decks with potent Affinity containment on-hand, like Kataki and Ancient Grudge, I expect Affinity will be present but not in especially great numbers, as it is unhappy to face plentiful sideboard hate and a decent portion of combo decks as well. The control axis of the format will of course be well represented as well… and will almost certainly contain yet another ‘Level’ of Blue decks that is better tuned to this week’s metagame in Philadelphia than three weeks ago’s metagame in Vancouver. I would expect however that the most plentiful control deck would be U/G Tron, which might make a consistent Blue control deck a much more interesting variety than what we have seen recently.

And that seems to be the Extended metagame in a nutshell… what’s ‘hot’ and ‘in fashion’ right now, and what you can expect will have largely fallen off the metagame radar come Saturday morning. I for one will likely just answer the metagame question the same way I have now for a month and a half (…”Goblins you”…), but that is largely an informed decision based on these trends and not just a blind adherence to my newfound love for Earwig Squad.

Sean McKeown
s_mckeown @ hotmail.com