My first-ever Extended tournament has come and gone. Overall, I found Extended to be one of the most stressful environments I’ve experienced in Magic. Opponents can Hatred on turn two. They can Oath their entire library into the graveyard and cast a mammoth Replenish. They can attack with two Pups, Incinerate you, Incinerate you, double Fireblast for eighteen points of damage on turn four. They can counter your key spell, even when tapped out. They can Donate Illusions of Grandeur to you, for God’s sake! Compare these situations to my last near-miss qualifier in UBC, where I played Smokestack Green. Sure, people could Replenish, but it took a looooong time. Moving from UBC to Extended was like moving from high school football to the Pros… everything moved at a blinding speed and the hits could take your head off.
Thankfully, Iain McFadyen and I had been working on a rogue deck largely geared towards beating the dominant decks. Iain’s the original designer, truth be told. He e-mailed me during my playtesting of White Weenie, saying that he had built a WW deck designed solely to beat Necro. It had something like sixteen pro:black creatures, including Duskrider Falcon. Then he tweaked it to beat Oath, adding green for River Boa and Rancor, Choke in the sideboard. By the time the deck turned W/g, he had realized that four Enlightened Tutors would allow him to keep one copy of the major deck-hosers maindeck. Then the deck took off. The questions I helped with were what the creature-mix should look like and what maindeck hosers to use.
When all was said and done, I brought the following deck to Sacramento this past Saturday:
4 river boa
4 soltari monk
4 white knight
4 paladin en-vec
2 hunted wumpus
4 enlightened tutor
3 swords to plowshares
4 aura of silence
2 empyrial armor
1 null rod
1 ivory mask
3 mox diamond
2 city of brass
3 treetop village
3 devout witness
2 story circle
2 hunted wumpus
1 swords to plowshares
1 null rod
1 planar void
Wow, did I borrow a lot of cards to make this thing. The first time I put the deck together it looked ridiculous because almost every card was a proxy. Slowly, as people offered more and more of the actual cards, it started to look like a real deck. Of course, I didn’t have a fully non-proxied deck until two nights before the tournament, and once it was completed I couldn’t stop giddily flipping through it.
Before I get into the tournament itself, let me comment briefly on the”blocks” of cards above. First, the name. Iain’s never been into naming decks, though he admits it’s an important part of deck design. Thus, you have me to thank for that bizarre (and relatively non-catchy) name. I tend to call all W/G decks”Lime” decks for some reason. Lime Weenie. Lime Control. Lime-a-Geddon. You get the idea. Well, it just so happens that Iain’s a Brit, so”Limey” kind of stuck. I added”.dec” because it makes the deck sound official and I’m all about jumping on the trendy bandwagon.
As far as the creatures go, it’s still pretty anti-Necro with twelve pro: black creatures and 4 Aura of Silence. But it also has four Islandwalkers, plus four pro: red, plus the almighty Wumpus. There’s a little bit of everything in there, which is sort of the idea behind the deck. In the first game, Limey.dec tries to be everywhere at once, having some strong and some weak cards against whatever deck it’s facing. Then in games two and three, it becomes a machine, looking like an exact foil to the opposing deck. There’s at least one type of creature in there to give any deck fits, and more join the fray after sideboarding.
The utility spells almost never get sideboarded out. The Tutors look for cards to shut down an opponent, the Tithes help stabilize the mana, the Swords are almost never useless. In fact, the only change I would make the spells of the deck would be to find room for the fourth Swords, since in no matches – even against combo – was I sorry to see one. The rest of the spells are the aforementioned hosers. The 4 Auras have become pretty standard for WW decks and decks like Pro Tour Junk. Null Rod is just amazing against anything artifact, including artifact mana, Disk, Keg, Scroll and Masticore. The Pariah is a lock against red and black. The Ivory Mask keeps you alive against combo, and is also fairly spiffy against red and black. Finally, the Armors were the most recent additions to the deck. In Iain’s undefeated run through his first qualifier, he found his one Empyrial Armor to be pure gold and suggested I add a second maindeck. They were pretty darned useful, but I’m still not sure a fourth Swords wouldn’t be better than the second Armor. Hosers that we tried that didn’t make the cut: Cursed Totem, Phyrexian Furnace and Choke.
The mana base is…. well, it’s just wrong. I couldn’t find a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] before the tournament, so had to make do with two Cities of Brass. A more correct land-mix would be:
3 mox diamond
4 treetop village
The jury-rigging of my land only came back to haunt me once, which I’ll get into later. Overall, though, I didn’t find the land to be a severe liability. If you take the deck to a qualifier, though, go get the Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] and add the fourth Treetop.
Sideboarding is a little complicated, but follows a pretty easy formula. Step 1: decide which creatures are bad against the deck you’re facing and replace them with either Devout Witnesses, more Wumpuses (Wumpii?) or both. For example, the Soltari Monks are horrible against Seth Burn Red, since they’re fragile and can’t block. Thus those come out for 2 Wumpus and 2 Witness (which can block and can kill Scrolls).
Step 2 to sideboarding: take out hosers that are bad against the deck you’re facing and replace them with better ones. Sometimes the Auras will come out, sometimes the Null Rod, sometimes the Mask, and against combo/Tinker the Armors. The only card I never took out was the Pariah, largely because it’s so flexible. Overall, the sideboard was fine. Iain was right: a third Null Rod should have been in there, and the Karma didn’t help nearly as much as I’d hoped. The Chokes were also surprisingly ineffective, since it’s such an easy spell to counter. I never tried out Humility against Countersliver or RecSur, but that’s why it’s in there. The Planar Void is why a single Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] is so important, since you then have eight (Scrubland, 4 Tithe, 3 Mox Diamond) ways to cast it.
That’s Limey.dec., a deck trying desperately to be everywhere at once and cover all its bases. I’m still not convinced it has an auto-loss matchup, which is about all you can hope for a deck. As I’ve alluded to earlier, Iain was able to bring the deck to a qualifier a week earlier in Grand Rapids. He went 5-0-2 with it, making Top 8 as the #1 seed before losing to Seth Burn in the quarterfinals. His finish actually put a bit of pressure on me, since scrubbing out would largely mean I was just scrubby rather than I was playing a scrubby rogue deck.
Anyway, on to the qualifier! I’m _so_ glad to get the deck off of my chest… it was killing me not talking about it for three weeks!
Team Purple Pepper all got up waaaaaay too early and we drove to Sacramento from the Bay Area. We entered the city limits without a map, nor directions to the Howard Johnson’s, nor the hotel’s phone number. In an act of Divine Intervention, we finally decide to take an exit and get directions when right off of the highway is the hotel. Spooky.
I don’t know the exact number of people at the tournament, but I would guess about eighty showed up. The small, smelly adjoining conference rooms were fairly packed with players. The tournament started only about 45 minutes late, which is pretty much a record for a Bay Area qualifier I think.
Throughout the tournamen,t I was able to pull out my spiffy notepad and actually write all of my opponent’s names down. Woo hoo! I’m getting more organized all the time! Limey.dec shakes its head around, throws a few phantom punches, informs me it’s ready (with that cute British accent it has) and we’re off…
ROUND 1: Matt Davies, Seth Burn
As I look at the pairings, I’m convinced that I recognize Matt’s name. But his face doesn’t look at all familiar so it was probably just the early morning getting to me.
Game 1: Matt drops a Mountain and a Pup and I swallow hard. As you’ll recall, Iain got knocked out of the quarterfinals by this deck. He admits he hadn’t playtested against red, so made some play errors, but I’m still a little worried.”It’s all right,” my deck whispers,”I bloody tear red to hell.” Apparently Limey.dec is right. His pup is answered by a 2nd-turn Paladin. Then he drops a Scroll, and on my turn I drop a Null Rod. Matt Hammers me once, and on the next turn I Pariah the Paladin and he concedes. I felt a little sorry for him, since it looked a lot like I had pre-sideboarded and was cheating.
I side out the 4 Monks for 2 more Wumpii and 2 Witnesses. Out come 3 Auras for a Sanctimony and 2 Story Circles. The order of importance against red is: 1) shut down the creature rush, 2) shut down the burn, 3) shut down the Scrolls.
Game 2: This game was an interesting tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte between our two sideboards. I get out a second-turn Sanctimony, which effectively nullifies his Hammers and Scroll. He plays Anarchy and then we start the game over again. I drop Null Rod so the Scroll can’t be used. I then get out a Story Circle, which shuts down his Mogg Fanatic and Viashino guy. We stare at each other for awhile and then he drops a Thran Lens and starts attacking. I tutor for my one remaining Aura to kill his Lens and then drop a Wumpus (he gets a Fanatic). A few turns later, the Wumpus finishes him off.
Redemption! I _knew_ this deck would be good against red. It’s still a stressful matchup because red in Extended can be so explosive and because of Anarchy. Still, there were a lot things my deck could do to give him fits.
Matches 1-0 (Games 2-0)
ROUND 2: Peter Costantinidis, Replenish
Peter has judged a few tournaments in which I’ve played and I generally regard him as a Good Player. Needless to say, I’m not happy about playing him so early. It doesn’t help that before the match a bunch of people come up and say”Hey, Peter! On your way to win this thing?”
Game 1: He drops a first-turn Flood Plains and then another second turn followed by a City of Brass. Okay, I think, Countersliver. I get out two White Knights and am attacking each turn with a Treetop Village and them. He doesn’t pop his Flood Plains for a long time and I’m not sure why. I guess he was trying to figure out what I was playing and thus what colors he’d need. Regardless, the turn before I kill him he drops down Attunement. Whoah! Okay, it’s not Countersliver.
Game 2: He drops an Oath of Druids, and I kill it with my Devout Witness. I’m not putting much pressure on him, though, and I know the game is going too long. He has a minor Replenish that brings the Oath, a couple of Attunements and an Opalescence onto the table. I kill the Opalescence on his turn, then the Oath on mine. Somewhere along the way, he Swords a River Boa and a Treetop, so I’m at 25 life. I’m staring at a Tithe and Tutor in my hand, cursing my inability to find a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author]. Eventually – after a long game – he’s able to Intuition and Attune to get two Pandemoniums in his graveyard, cast a big Replenish and deal me 44 points of damage. The game rattled me, and I started to panic a little at the combo I had never played against.
Game 3: My blood pressure isn’t helped when he gets out a second-turn Oath. I play a Devout Witness, and he’s able to Oath once before it dies. Thankfully, the Oath is horrible for him, as all he dumps into his graveyard is a Replenish, 2 Oaths, a bunch of countermagic and an Attunement before the Anarchist comes up. People around him groan, and I suddenly realize that we’re the only match still playing and there’s a large crowd around us. I kill the Oath and am attacking with two Soltari Monks, playing very carefully and keeping the Witness active. He attacks with the Anarchist a few times, and in the last turn before time is called he Intuitions for Pandemonium. My heart starts racing again, and I’m sure I’m going to lose. I have an Enlightened Tutor in my hand, and I stare at the ceiling for a long time trying to think what will save me. Finally I calm down enough to remember the Ivory Mask and Tutor for it at the end of his turn. In the first extra turn, I drop Ivory Mask and he doesn’t counter. Whew. Then I realize he only has three land (he’s been doing City of Traitors tricks for awhile). Thus, not only can he not Disenchant and Replenish in the same turn, he can’t even Replenish yet. I attack and on the second extra turn he plays Attunement. I have enough damage with a Treetop and two Monks to attack with the Witness and kill him, so I win in the third extra turn. Whoah. I’m shaking and thankful for the lunch break so I can calm down.
Matches 2-0 (Games 4-1)
ROUND 3: Eric Campusano, Forbidian
Eric isn’t what I would call an unfriendly guy, but he wasn’t quite friendly either. Playing him was basically like playing an online opponent, since he didn’t really say one word except to announce his moves and he never changed his facial expression.
Game 1: I mulligan a no-land hand only to get a hand of six cards with only one Treetop Village. For some inexplicable reason I keep it, and then proceed to miss land-drops on turns two and three. By the time I get a second land, he has more than enough counters for my Null Rod and creatures, and a Masticore runs me over.
Out come the Wumpii, 1 Paladin, 1 Ivory Mask and 2 Auras for 2 Devout Witness, 2 Choke the fourth Swords and the extra Null Rod. This is NOT a good sideboard against Forbidian, and I’m not even sure I took out or put in the right stuff. Bleck.
Game 2: This game showed how bad I am against counter-heavy decks. Early in the game he Disks, but I’ve gotten him to two life with a few Soltari guys. Instead of holding my threats and trying to play them all at once, I got into a top-decking war with Eric. He had two cards and I had two cards, and I would draw a card and try to play it, then he would counter. Eventually, I’m just stupidly holding two lands and he is getting more, and more, and more cards. He drops a Morphling and I mistakenly try to Swords it, forgetting about the that cute one-mana ability (this shows how frustrated I was that he was at two life and holding for about ten turns). My life goes 20-15-10-5-dead.
Matches 2-1 (Games 4-3)
I sigh and return to my teammates. Tom, Will and Dan are all 1-2. Dan should have been 3-0 but he let some games get away from him. They decide to play on and I let them know that if I lose another match I’m happy to drop out and get back to our wives for dinner. They agree, we do some trading (which always lessens the blow of a loss) and we head into Round 4.
ROUND 4: Nathan Johnson, Hatred
Wow, am I seeing a lot of different decks. I haven’t tested against Hatred, so I’m not sure how this matchup will unfold.
Game 1: I see a City of Traitors while he’s shuffling, so when he drops a turn one Sarcomancy, I know it’s Hatred and not straight Suicide. My pro: black guys come out to play and when I put Pariah on one of them, Nathan concedes. Well, that wasn’t too hard without the Hatred. I pet my deck and coo at it between games.
Game 2: He Duresses me first turn and my hand is something like three Land, Paladin, Paladin, Story Circle, Karma. Ouch for him. I think he takes the Story Circle. He’s playing like he has a Hatred in his hand, and carefully puts out City of Traitors and a Masticore. When he gets a Dauthi Horror on the board, my situation looks desperate, so I Tutor for a Pariah. And here’s where I make a big mistake: he’s got two cards in hand, which I’m pretty sure are a Dark Ritual and a Hatred, with the Masticore and Horror on the table. I’ve got Pariah. The correct play would be to Pariah the Horror; if Nathan keeps the Masticore, he’ll have to lose either the Ritual or the Hatred, and then I’ll”just” have a Masticore to deal with. Instead, I Pariah the ‘Core, he lets it go and Hatreds me with the Horror. Damn.
Game 3: I can’t tell by the way he’s playing if he has a Hatred or not, so I decide to play like he does. Eventually he empties his hand and it’s three Sarcomancies and three Horrors. I get out a Story Circle and after a few nervous turns when he could have Hated me, I have enough mana to shut down all the threats and attack with a Paladin. The Paladin goes the distance as he can’t find an answer nor more threats than I have mana. At the end of the game, I’m holding a Karma wondering if the card would have made the difference or not. My guess is not, because if gets rid of the Circle I would MUCH rather have another one than deal a little damage to him while he kills me.
Matches 3-1 (Games 6-4)
Dan drops after a frustrating 1-3, Will has recovered to 2-2 and Tom is 1-2-1. Dan should have kept playing because he didn’t realize what a long day of watching Magic he was in for. The rest of the day he spent sitting next to me and watching my matches, which for some reason was kind of comforting instead of nerve-wracking (awwwww… aren’t teams great?).
ROUND 5: Darcy Villere, Weenie Necro
Darcy is a cool guy. At one point in the match, I’m apologizing to Dan for making him stay here (I drove) and that I wouldn’t care if I lost and we headed home or whether I won. Darcy asked”you want to concede?” Good try, but we decide to play it out.
Game 1: I don’t remember game one very well. I think my pro: black guys came out to shut his fellows down and when I Pariah one of them, he concedes.
I side out the 4 River Boa for 3 Witness and an extra Wumpus. I think I also take out 3 Swords for 1 Karma and 2 Story Circle. The Karma is better against Necro than the Hatred matchup, but I’m still not convinced a different (cheaper) card wouldn’t be better.
Game 2: He gets out 2 Negators and 2 black pump-knights. I’ve got some pro:black guys, but they can’t attack because of Negator retaliation and his pump-knights are able to come in for enough damage that Negator trample-damage kills me. At one point he drops a No Mercy, too, which is pretty sucky.
Game 3: Much like my first game against my 1st-round red opponent, my deck decides to answer each one of my opponent’s threats. We go back and forth for awhile, him finally getting low enough on life he can’t Necro. He drops a No Mercy, Duresses an Aura out of my hand and thinks he’s stabilized. I topdeck another Aura, much to his chagrin, and am able to kill the No Mercy and come over for lethal damage over 2 turns. After the match, Darcy’s friend asks”What was he playing?” and Darcy starts yelling”A freakin’ anti-Necro deck! Hundreds of pro: black guys! Karma! Story Circle! Auras!” he goes on and on. Dan laughs… a lot.
Matches 4-1 (Games 8-5)
Between rounds, they post the standings and I’m 6th after 5 rounds. If I win, I can draw into Top 8 and if I lose I’m probably out. I don’t know what happens if I draw, and don’t really have enough experience to figure it out. So it’s down to one match, so which deck do I face?
ROUND 6: Bennie Louie, Seth Burn
That’s right! The deck that knocked Iain out of Top 8! The deck I’ve completely crushed earlier! Flex, Limey, flex! RRRAARGH!!!
Game 1: Bennie has a funny habit of saying”the table is yours” when he ends his turn, which I just thought was awesome. When he drops a Mountain, Fanatic I smile. Then Limey.dec whispers something about”be careful… bloody hubris.” I apparently wasn’t listening. I misplay on turn three, which costs me the game. He has a Fanatic and a Scroll, with five cards in hand. I have two Empyrial Armor, an Aura and a Paladin with three land on the table. I _should_ have dropped the Aura, killed the Scroll and then next turn played the Paladin to stabilize. Instead, I figured I could drop the Paladin, thereby shutting the Fanatic down, survive a desperate Scroll and then Armor up the Paladin out of Scroll range. Of course, I pick the one Fireblast Bennie’s holding the next turn and the Paladin dies to the Scroll. I can’t find another creature to Armor up and I die soon afterwards.
I do the same sideboarding as Round 1, still confident I can win two games but a little annoyed at my poor luck with the Scroll and poor choice with timing my spells.
Game 2: I get ROLLED. I am a little creature-light, can’t find any sideboard cards except a Null Rod, and he has a hand just full of burn. Dan was sitting behind Bennie and he said there was no way I was going to win, since he had a slew of Shocks, Incinerates and Fireblasts. Ugly, ugly game. Bennie probably could have burned me out in response to playing Ivory Mask. He got a dream draw and I got poop. It happens.
I do some more trading and leave as they’re posting standings after 6 rounds. I’m thirteenth, so let’s say that’s about where I finished. In the meantime, Dan gets to see Trix (Donate/Illusions with Necro) do its thing and he falls in love with the deck. For a good portion of our drive back to the Bay Area, we all talk about Trix and how good/fast it is. I know at least one person made Top 8 with it. Other decks I know made Top 8 were my two losses (Forbidian and Seth Burn… at least I had good tie-breakers!), another Seth Burn and I think RecSur. I have no idea what the other three people were playing.
All in all, I’m not too disappointed with the outing. I was in it for quite awhile, and although no one actually told me I had a cool deck, I felt our little rogue creation matched up well against the field. Forbidian still seems like a problem, but that might just be because I play like an ass. There also isn’t much disruption against decks like Trix. But overall, playing Limey.dec means giving yourself a fighting chance against pretty much any opponent. I love that, and it’s why I ditched my WW deck so quickly to work on this one.
After weeks of playtesting and dedicating about fourteen hours straight (if you include travel time) to the qualifier, I’m feeling a little hesitant about the next two in February. When it comes down to it, my love for Magic is still largely embedded in Type 2. It’s an environment I understand and one in which I can make almost any deck without borrowing, trading or buying cards. Playing Extended just feels… tiring. Both emotionally and physically. I think I’m ready for some Small Town Magic.
Who knows, though? As February 12th gets closer and closer I’ll probably pick up Limey.dec again.”All you need is love…” it’s whispering from its little box,”It’s just been a hard day’s night and you’ve been working like a dog.”
I’m so cheesy.