More Necro Than Prison – Shredder in Extended

Patrick brings us the story of Shredder.dec, an Extended offering capable of running with the big dogs. Last season, we all saw Friggorid rear its mighty head, overshadowing the format with its broken power. Extended is a format with a number of strong archetypes, and Shredder has game against them all… but the Friggorid matchup was a cause for concern. Patrick has now changed that, bringing game to the table against Ichorid’s Finest Hour. Strategy, sideboarding, and detailed matchup analysis, all available with a click of the mouse!

What is / was Shredder.dec? A question you have doubtless been staying up at night contemplating. O Seeker of Knowledge, your journey is at an end… I have the answer! Well, not the answer, but certainly the answer to what Shredder.dec is/was.

Heroes in a Half-Shell (of the Last Kappa)

Shredder.dec was an Extended control deck showcasing Green for Life from the Loam, Eternal Witness, and Sakura-Tribe Elder; Black and White for removal and disruption; and Red for a Burning Wish sideboard.

Keep in mind I designed this deck pre-Friggorid, when aggressive decks featured Isamaru or Arcbound Ravager. Massive card advantage from the Green Necro (and in true Green fashion, it pales in comparison) Life From the Loam, backed by boatloads of removal, kept Shredder.dec in the driver seat versus the aggro decks that were so strong mid-way through the season.

As for control decks, Tog and Rock were beaten on card advantage; however, lock or combo decks such as No Stick and Heartbeat were rougher, with a few fairly ugly matches, such as Balancing Tings.

The similarities to the CAL are obvious and the match-up was close, with the edge to Shredder if the CAL had no Burning Wish but the edge to the CAL if it had.

With a metagame slanted towards aggro and Tog, life was decent for Shredder.dec (though not surprisingly, there were not a lot of PTQs here). Then, with little warning, Friggorid reared its ugly head.

Now, just to put things into perspective, Affinity is broken as a concept. It is the most broken mechanic since the “untap mechanic” (see Frantic Search). It is possibly the most feared beatdown deck ever. It was stripped of its Ace — Skullclamp – and it was still ridiculous. Well, now it has no Disciple or Aether Vial, and it is still great. So great in fact, it helps define the format and everyone sideboards against it.

Friggorid put Affinity to shame (though to be fair, Friggorid dominated for a couple of weeks, as opposed to… say… a couple of years). While Affinity may win the head-to-head matchup, Friggorid has the bigger game versus control.

Ever try to remove an Ichorid?

Friggorid poses quite the daunting task for the Shredder player. Sure, you can imagine Cranial Extracting Ichorids, but somehow the raw speed of Friggorid is usually too much. Of course, the Extended season ended shortly thereafter, so many suspended work on the format. Fast forward to today. Extended is still not the format yet, but unlike Masques Block Constructed, there are still some people who play it.

Shredder.dec is a very interesting and enjoyable strategy, so I thought I’d try to update it to deal with an environment involving many Stinkweed Imps. Besides, not much has been written about Extended since before Guildpact and Dissension, so perhaps this will offer a fresh look at the only current format that compares to Standard in terms of deck diversity. Besides, if you aren’t playing Ravnica Teams Constructed (Sunforger plus Hit / Run? Supply / Demand plus Glare of Subdual?), perhaps you’d just like a break from Standard.

First, the problem: Friggorid. Specifically, Ichorids, and to a lesser degree Zombie Infestation.

My proposed answer: Collective Restraint. The reasoning is relatively straightforward. Obviously, Restraint is the stone cold nuts versus Friggorid… but a fifth color? Why not? With Elders, Dragons, Fetchlands, and a full set of new duals, it seems reasonable. Restraint is also amazing versus Boros, Zoo, Affinity, Goblins, etc.

The downsides? A five-color deck with only seven duals, and 20 of its lands want to come into play tapped. Also, Restraint is not super nor terrible versus some of the less popular decks, though combined they represent a big chunk of the field.

Interestingly, Shredder.dec completes the hybridization of The CAL and Domain decks. As mentioned in The Road to Regionals – Hybrid Theory and Critical Snakes, Hybrid Theory will play a larger role than ever in every format involving Ravnica cards. Keep this in mind in the formats to come.

Without further ado:

As in Standard, there are just too many decks to test every matchup extensively in Extended. I decided to start with Zoo, Affinity, U/B Mental Note Tog, and Friggorid. While these are popular decks, Heartbeat, The CAL, and No Stick, among others, should also be tested. However, I had to start somewhere. The build of Tog I used was because it was always the toughest on Shredder, due to its speed. Builds with Life From the Loam were just too slow.

Some notes:

  • Know what the plan is, regarding which land to get or which sorcery to Wish for. Time is critical, especially online, as this deck is slower than Slowerson himself.
  • On a related note, this deck is very complicated. I made many noticeable misplays in every matchup, and I played with the deck quite a bit. That is a disadvantage, but with experience comes improved matchups (as opposed to many decks, where the ceiling – when skill improvements show diminishing returns – is lower).
  • If there is sufficient interest, I will further explore Shredder.dec, including matchups like Heartbeat, No Stick, and The CAL; sideboarding, variations, or even altogether new decks made possible by new cards.

In all odd games, Shredder is on the play. Even games it draws.

One last note: All 40 of the following duels actually took place. I don’t actually have any Magical cards at the moment, but Adrian Sullivan (get in touch with me Adrian!) deck mapping system has been such a benefit for the past three and a half years.

This system involves using a 52-card poker deck with 4 additional Kings (Adrian uses Jacks) and 4 Jokers. I sometimes rely on the charts showing what each card represents, but I have been deck mapping for so long it is easy for me to memorize any deck list in deck map format. I don’t even know what most cards look like, only seeing art in articles.

Matchup 1 – Zoo

This was the only updated deck I used. I opted for Zoo over Boros Deck Wins because with Guildpact, mise. The mana is so easy, it is a joke to not play whatever spells you want. The Zoo build I used has made a few choices to be more of a challenge for Shredder, such as Goblin Legionnaire over Kataki.

Game 1
Shredder’s first Wish is for Wrath. The second was for Life from the Loam, but I think Presence of the Wise would have been better in retrospect. The Shredder should have just played the Eternal Witness plus Wrath game, but got burned out. I decided at this point to focus on Wishing for Wise.

Game 2
Shredder.dec mulligans, but a Wish for Wise buys time to catch up, backed with Deed, Wrath, and Witness. A Nantuko Monastery seals the deal.

Game 3
Zoo has the triple Kird Ape draw, but a turn 4 Restraint slows things way down. Some burn makes it close, but a timely Wish backed by a Witness allows the Shredder to win the race, just barely, due to Char damage. If Zoo had played, it easily would have won.

Game 4
Shredder.dec stabilizes, but with no Life From the Loam or Wish, it is just drawing off the top. Zoo burns Shredder out. Lava Dart has been key for fighting Elders and Witnesses.

Game 5
Restraint and Wrath slow things down enough so Shredder can eventually Wish for Wise. Dragon comes down on turn 7 and quickly finishes things.

Game 6
Shredder mulligans and keeps a hand with a Secluded Steppe, a Tranquil Thicket, a Mountain, a Deed, a Restraint, and a Duress. Hmmm. Playing five colors is apparently not without some cost. Fortunately, Zoo’s first turn Kird Ape has no Forest. Despite drawing Hallowed Fountain and a Burning Wish, Shredder.dec is burned out due to having to Wish for Wrath instead of Wise. Should Shredder have mulliganed? Three lands, but no action. I figured you gotta just bank on drawing some action you can play, or land to play what you have.

Game 7
Shredder misses a third land drop and plays Loam for zero to try to dredge into some land. Not surprisingly, the turn 1 Kird Ape, turn 2 Watchwolf, turn 3 Burning-Tree Shaman curve forgives not.

Game 8
Zoo has an aggressive draw and Shredder doesn’t draw Blue mana, so Restraint doesn’t save the day.

Game 9
Elder is so big in this matchup, as a speed bump, acceleration, and color fixing. Wish 1 is for lifegain, Wish 2 is for Wrath, and Wish 3 is for Nostalgic Dreams… gg.

Game 10
Zoo mulligans. Still, it is the Elder that wins it for Shredder, though if Zoo had drawn one more burn spell, it would have won.

The somewhat disappointing five and five record should have been at least six-four to the good. It feels like this should be a 2-1 matchup, but it is hard to tell, as Zoo is so much more consistent, if less powerful.

In this matchup, Wishing for Presence of the Wise is key. Resolving it usually leads to a win.

Figuring out how best to play your lands to minimize Shocks, but maximize flexibility is important.

Burning-Tree Shaman is not as scary as he looks.

Shredder.dec’s mana could be better.

While Restraint helps Shredder, Zoo has Watchwolf, Kird Ape, Burning-Tree Shaman, and Stomping Ground. This actually helps the aggro deck tighten up the matchup. Still, it is favorable, I suppose, which may be good enough.

Zoo just seems better than a standard Boros deck now. Play Pillage if you want, just make sure you run Kird Ape.

Zoo is fast and reliable: Regardless of what your opponent is playing, swinging with Kird Ape and Charring faces is a good plan. The burden of proof is always on the other guy.

Matchup 2 – Affinity

Okay, so the Shredder can hang with Zoo, what about the “other” most feared deck in recent times? (besides Friggorid)

Game 1
An Elder, Wrath, and Deed buy time to Wish for Akroma’s Vengeance. Destroy all creatures, enchantments, and artifacts? Nice deck. Somehow an Eternal Dragon manages to out-race a Blinkmoth Nexus.

Game 2
No White mana spells, lights out for Shredder.

Game 3
Both teams mulligan. Shredder plays turn 4 Wrath, turn 5 Putrefy, turns 6 and 7 Restraint. With 17 life it is a virtual lock (even 6 life is a soft lock).

Game 4
Restraint then Wrath buys time to start Dredging. When Life From the Loam flips a Monastery, it is a wrap.

Game 5
Turn 2 Elder, turn 3 Restraint, turn 4 Restraint leads to a win without ever losing a point.

Game 6
Again, both mulligan. Elder and Restraint equals game.

Game 7
Shredder plays board control and wins with extra cards off Life From the Loam.

Game 8
Wrath and Putrefy buy time to Wish for Global Ruin, hitting three artifact lands and two Nexus copies. This matchup seems so lopsided, I doubt you need Global Ruin.

Game 9
Affinity mulligans and has to keep a one-land draw. Obviously this is a frown. It can’t mount a real attack.

Game 10
Cranial Plating on Worker and Atog get past a lone Witness for the win.

The Eight-Two record is obviously very encouraging. This matchup is a bit like Zoo, but with almost no burn. Besides, Affinity plays two drops with a power of one; Zoo plays one drops with a power of two. Affinity never gets a chance to hit with the knockout punch from Atog or Ravager or Cranial Plating (well, not often).

While I am not sure this is an 80% matchup, it may be. Restraint is devastating, Wrath and Deed are super, and Wish for Vengeance is the absolute nuts.

Blocking with Green men and women is huge.

A bad mana draw for Shredder.dec seems to be Affinity’s only real plan.

I’m not sure you need Global Ruin, and you could certainly use the space. Still, it is a house versus Balancing Tings and can be randomly good.

While Affinity didn’t shine, it beats Friggorid and is great versus many decks, so it will continue to be very relevant.

If only Disciple of the Vault and Aether Vial were legal… (not to mention Skullclamp)

Matchup 3 — U/B Mental Note Tog

This particular style of Psychatog was always the strongest versus Shredder, due to its speed and ability to protect lethal Togs. This match is where I will most miss the Sensei’s Divining Tops, cut in an effort to speed up the Shredder.

Game 1
Shredder starts Dredging early but is stuck chumping a Tog every turn with Nantuko Monastery (plus Life From the Loam). This strands Shredder at six land, so it only nets one card a turn, counting everything else it has to do. Tog wins with Wonder with 0 cards left in the library.

Game 2
Duress plus Putrefy plus Wrath stop the first Tog. Every turn with no Tog in play is a step towards victory for Shredder. Uncounterable 4/4s quickly dispatch.

Game 3
Tog mulligans and Shredder keeps a sketchy hand with Forest, Monastery, and Island, with no castable spells. Shredder dies on turn 6, with a Restraint being its only spell played. That was probably a bad draw to keep. You literally need to topdeck several land just to do anything. One card is not as important as the time.

Game 4
Shredder draws mad cards via Life From the Loam, but Tog is Fact or Fictioning, Deep Analyzing, and Thirsting. Shredder goes Monastery beatdown and loses by one turn. I think if Shredder had used its mana to draw even more cards, instead of swinging, it would have won.

Game 5
Shredder mulligans, but has turn 1 fetch land, and cycle, turn 2 Life From the Loam. Shredder focuses on just Wishing for Cranials and saving Witnesses for them until one resolves. Surprisingly, one Wonder versus an entire deck is not a fair fight.

Game 6
A long fight without any Dredging… Eventually The Shredder succumbs to a lethal Tog hit. If only Shredder had a Top, it surely would have won.

Game 7
Tog mulligans. A Duress allows a Cranial to slip through.

Game 8
Double Restraint plus double Monastery buys enough time to draw Life From the Loam, though Tog had nine lands one turn when Shredder was naked. If it had drawn a land, it would have won. Where are you, Top?

Game 9
Shredder draws more Duresses, Putrefies, Deeds, Wraths, Witnesses, and Wishes than Tog draws Togs and counters.

Game 10
Tog mulligans. Shredder has more than enough answers and plenty of time.

Only winning six-four is understandable without Sensei’s Divining Top. I am a big fan of four Tops, but I think this format is too fast and this deck has so much manipulation already. Maybe two or three? One Dragon can go, if you play fast enough… Maybe a Barren Moor? Tops would be huge.

Restraint is, not surprisingly, not super.

It is very tricky, figuring out to Wish for Life From the Loam or Cranial Extraction, and how much pain to take from your deck.

When to draw cards, when to swing, when to try to deck Tog… hmmm…

Tog kills very, very quickly, for a deck of counters and card drawing.

Now that Breeding Pool exists, what about Quirion Dryad and a GroAtog hybrid?

There is a ton of room for either side to out-play the other in this matchup.

As far as Dredgatog decks go, they utilize Life From the Loam less than Shredder, and Burning Wish trumps Gifts.

Oh, so this is all well and good, but how does Shredder.dec stand up to the evil darkness? Is Restraint enough to compete with Friggorid?

Match 4 – Friggorid

Game 1
Friggorid names Eternal Witness with the Turn 1 Cabal Therapy. I’m not sure if this is right, but I figure since the flashback will name Collective Restraint, it is logical to ensure they can’t get any discarded Restraints back. Two Sakura-Tribe Elders help buy time until Shredder can cycle into a Restraint. Friggorid has a lot of trouble getting five lands into play. It doesn’t Dredge up its Ray until after a Dragon has dropped. An enormous Troll is no match for drawing five cards a turn.

Game 2
Shredder is stuck on three lands all game, despite playing 28 land, 4 Elders, and 2 Dragons. Tops would be nice.

Game 3
Friggorid mulligans into a non-aggressive draw. Turn 3 Shredder Landcestral Recalls; turn 4 Restraint is game.

Game 4
Friggorid comes out hard and Shredder doesn’t draw a Restraint. It seems that without one, it eventually falls too far behind.

Game 5
Friggorid kills on turn 4. Restraint would have been game. If Shredder drew Restraint like Duresses, it would be 5-0.

Game 6
No Restraint equals gg.

Game 7
A late Restraint slows things to a crawl, but Stinkweed Imp holds off a Dragon. If Friggorid ever Dredged its Ray, it would win, but it was the bottom card.

Game 8
Shredder puts up a good fight, but without Restraint, it is eventually overcome by Ichorids.

Game 9
Twin Restraints are too much. Going first is nice, but only because it buys time to dig for a Restraint.

Game 10
Friggorid mulligans into the turn 1 Carnophage draw (Putrid Imp plus discard hand). This enables turn 2 Ichorid attack plus Dredge for 6. With only one land, Friggorid basically commits to never playing another spell, save Therapy and Ray. It is a four-turn clock at the least, though. A few Elders and a Putrefy on the Imp slow things down. Even a Dragon on defense can’t stop the bleeding when a second, then a third, Ichorid join the attack. No Restraint equals No Win.

The record, four to six in favor of Friggorid, is respectable, considering this was Shredder.dec’s worst matchup before. The entire matchup is getting a Restraint in play and winning before they draw a Ray (Cranial the Ray!). Everything else is just buying time.

I’m not sure if it is worth mulliganing to the Restraint, but it is worth considering if your hand doesn’t have a lot of action.

Make sure you finish the job before a Ray finishes you. Cranial for Ray if you have a Restraint; otherwise, hit Ichorid.

Clutch of the Undercity in the board is to get Restraint, but I haven’t tested it, so I don’t know how good it is.

It seems crazy, but might Leyline of the Void be worth considering? It ruins the Life From the Loam and Witness plans, but it is the best card in the world versus Friggorid.

Shred Memory, the original tutor for Life From the Loam before Burning Wish, is the namesake for Shredder.dec. It would be a solid sideboard card versus Friggorid and is a decent random sideboard card versus anyone, since it can get Life From the Loam or Wish. You’d probably want more Black mana, though.

In Closing

I’m interested in testing more matchups, such as Heartbeat, No Stick, maybe even The CAL, but these 40 games took two days, so I’m taking a little break. If you are interested in seeing more on Shredder.dec, including other matchups, sideboarding, and variations, please let me know.

With an overall record of 23-17, which should be at least 24-16, versus four of the most popular decks in Extended, Shredder.dec looks to have potential. Unfortunately, results versus some of the other decks, such as Heartbeat, No Stick, and Balancing Tings might not be as bright. It is hard to say, but it shouldn’t be terrible. Tops would help.

Sauntering vaguely downwards

It is also important to stress how slow this deck is. If you play this deck in MTGO, it will be doubly difficult. You will only get your half of the time. You may need to Wish to Rude Awakening just to be able to win two games before the clock ruins you.

Remember to sideboard three Cranials and the Clutches versus whoever, but also board in random sorceries if you think they are reasonable draws that you probably won’t Wish for, such as Vindicate and Akroma’s Vengeance versus aggro, instead of Duresses. Also, this is such a difficult deck to play. After 40 games of this incarnation, as well as hundreds of the originals, I still regularly make noticeable mistakes. There are so many decisions to be made. Just doing one’s best and learning from each game should be the goal. I suggest playing at least 15 games with the deck before playing in a tournament, just to get a feel for it. A few games versus Affinity, a few versus Tog, a few versus Friggorid, etc.

Finally, Shredder.dec is fun. Drawing lots of cards (like Necroing), without actually winning any time soon (unlike Bargaining) is always a good time. Life From the Loam is actually reminiscent of Necropotence, in that you have to decide how many extra cards to draw, depending on the game state.

There is much room to innovate, with access to all five colors. For instance, one may prefer Vindicate over Putrefy, though I think instant speed may be worth it. Perhaps cutting colors is the way to go. There is so much you can do.

I highly recommend taking a look at Shredder.dec if you are playing Extended. Even if it is not your style, it can provide insights into matchups you may face.

Take care and be thankful every time you shuffle real Magic cards, when playing real matches, against real opponents. Most of all, be thankful for the opportunities to enjoy good times with real friends.

Hardcore Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

PS: I don’t have a computer at the moment, but I do read forums and greatly appreciate the feedback. With regards to Critical Snakes, I agree… at least two Naturalizes would be great. Permanents such as Debtors’ Knell are rough, but you have to decide how much to fight them, considering the variety of decks you could face. Just how many people run Jushi or Faith’s Fetters? If a lot in your area, then adjust accordingly. As far as Voidslime goes, that is an interesting possibility, if you can make room for a couple. Plax creatures are solid, but this is not the deck for them. Ghost Husk is indeed a rough match. And Crime / Punishment… Well, that’s just broken in most formats, I’ve found.