One Step Ahead – Thompson Tackles Extended, Part 2

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Tuesday, September 30th – Last week, Gerry Thompson brought us a peek into the New Extended format, sharing a plethora of strong lists that he believes will make up the metagame. Today he continues the series with a look at a collection of decks that are off the radar. Gifts, Tron, Storm, and even Dredge get the Thompson Treatment today… if you’re serious about Extended, you can’t miss this!

Dredge was a nightmare last season. Thankfully, I managed to dodge it for the most part, although with the insane amount of qualifications it earned, I assume I was one of the lucky ones. Now, nearly everywhere I look, people are skimping on graveyard hate. They assume that Dredge is dead.

Once I realized Raven’s Crime targets a player and not an opponent, I thought I had broken the format. Crime would function as a constant discard outlet, despite removal killing your Greenseekers and Llanowar Mentors. You could also use it to fight combo. Life from the Loam was an obvious combo, and with a few cycling lands you could dredge away your entire deck quickly.

I first realized that without something like Goblin Lore or Ideas Unbound, this deck wouldn’t be anywhere near as fast as its predecessors. While Loam plus cycling lands was awesome, you wouldn’t be able to flip your deck until four or five. This made the Flame Kin Zealot kill largely ineffective, as the other combo decks were able to kill on turn 4, despite minor disruption.

This version of Dredge was playing more like a Loam control deck than combo Dredge. The Zealots and Bridges were removed, and I added Wall of Roots to help against aggro. Wall would end up paying for itself the turn you played it, and then turbo charged the Loam engine for the next couple of turns. The combo Dread Return targets were pointless, so I added Akroma for utility.

Here’s what I sleeved up:

Initial testing was somewhat strange. Our results indicated that the matchups against Affinity, Zoo, and Dragonstorm were almost stone even across the board.

While you might be inclined to think that Zoo would destroy Dredge due to past results, look again. Mogg Fanatic is significantly worse in the new Extended, so you can expect it to see little play. While my above list doesn’t have any Bridges, Fanatic is still a fine way to kill your outlets. My Zoo list only has ten removal spells that could kill a 1/1 before it got active, and most of those only when on the play.

The dredging would usually begin, at which point you could defend with Imps and Walls until Trolls or Akroma came online. This was almost the same plan against Affinity, although their percentage was a bit higher, due to the fact that they hit harder and faster. Stinkweed Imp was huge against them.

Dragonstorm was all about whether or not you could start Criming them. Nothing else mattered.

Matchups against decks like Tron, PLU, or Doran/Rock decks didn’t worry me at all. If those decks didn’t pack any hate, you would run them over.

I decided that if I changed the reanimation targets to a pair of Blazing Archons and Ancestor’s Chosens, then I would have the best chance against Zoo, Affinity, and Dragonstorm.

Against Dragonstorm, I could either Crime them or reanimate a Chosen, and then an Archon once they finally put some dragons into play. Archon kolded Affinity, and usually Zoo as well. However, this was another example of where Oblivion Ring would be winning games that I didn’t expect other people to be winning.

I ended up cutting the Chosens and Archons for Sundering Titans, as those could provide most of the functions I wanted. It was useless against Affinity, but I was willing to take that risk. I also fixed up the manabase a touch, but the original list remained largely intact.

I never really explored combo Dredge, although I still have some ideas kicking around. I basically just wanted to build a control Loam deck, so that’s what I did next.

I really wanted this deck to work for a while. Initially, I had Firespouts, but they just weren’t cutting it against a good Zoo player. They would either spend their time leveling up Figure or getting Tarmogoyf out of range, and Spout would end up as a terrible Edict. Actual spot removal would have been much better the majority of the time, as I was losing most of the games to not being able to deal with Dark Confidant and Tarmogoyf.

Oblivion Ring was proving its worth here also, by removing a Kitchen Finks that would have otherwise stopped Zoo in its tracks.

Raven’s Crime was too slow against combo decks. You need something else to beat them. Thoughtseize is too painful in multiples, and a terrible draw against Zoo. Sure you might save a couple points of damage by taking their Tribal Flames, but that still isn’t a good use of a spell or your mana. In addition to that, Thoughtseize won’t fix your combo matchup by itself. I don’t think it’s good enough, at least in this deck.

Birds of Paradise might not be the correct choice. I had thought of Sakura-Tribe Elders, at least in some amount. Owen says that playing 28 lands is correct, as it allows you to get Criming as soon as you want. I feel as if that makes you too reliant on Loam.

I even tried Sakura-Tribe Scout to help break Ghost Quarter parity. In theory, that would help against Zoo and Tron, while also functioning like a Birds of Paradise against other decks. Predictably, it was amazing when you had Loam, and terrible when you didn’t. Generally, when you have Loam going you should be winning, so you should build the deck in a way that doesn’t auto lose when you don’t have it.

Worm Harvest is very exciting. In fact, I built several Gifts decks trying to set up Harvest and Loam. Sadly, most of the time, just playing multiple copies of each card was better, as losing a turn to cast Gifts can be suicide in this format.

You usually need a second Eternal Witness type effect in case you need to Gifts for a specific card. Living Wish used to play that role, but I’m particularly fond of Rise/Fall. The sheer amount of synergy with this deck is amazing, and I would probably sideboard at least another copy for combo and control decks.

The one Tarmogoyf might look a bit awkward, but you should just think of it as a removal spell against beatdown. Would you rather have another Dark Banishing or a Goyf to hold the fort? I know my answer.

Miren is the way you usually just lock it up against Zoo. Once you establish control, your only worry is getting burned out, so you need some sort of recursive life gain. Primal Command fetching a Witness chain is one way of accomplishing that, but you usually don’t have eight mana lying around against Zoo. I would probably murder someone for a single Nomad Stadium.

This next list is largely inspired by Ben Jackson.

I fell in love for a split second with this throwback to Kenji’s PT: LA deck, until the crushing realization that Gifting up four answers probably won’t cut it in this format.

This list was conceived before I figure out that Firespout isn’t all that in a control deck. I’m not sure what you should have in those slots. Perhaps a second Damnation and a Threads. I would have loved for Darkblast to be a viable way to machine gun down threats, just like the old days when Savannah Lions were out in force. Sadly, even Loam, cycling lands, and Darkblast don’t compare well to Wild Nacatl. If I expect UB Faeries, I would certainly play a Darkblast. That way, you will be able to keep up with Bitterblossom and Dark Confidant.

Ben insists that Remand isn’t the right card, as this deck is an attrition deck, and you should treat it like so. While I agree, I’m not a big fan of the alternatives. The first Rune Snag is usually terrible, whereas the first Mana Leak is money, but the rest suck.

Raven’s Crime might be good enough for the main deck, but I decided to leave it in the sideboard. As I said before, having to find and resolve Gifts, and then start Criming them can be a slow task.

A lot of people seem to realize the synergy with Crime, Loam, and Urborg, particularly with Gifts, but one filter land usually does the trick. That’s why I have Twilight Mires instead of Urborg in the above Loam list also.

Kenji.dec was testing favorable against Zoo, but so were most of my PLU variants. Tron, like many other matchups, were decided by whether or not I could resolve Gifts. Doing so proved to be much harder than I had anticipated, so I decided to scrap the whole idea and go with a more traditional approach.

Did I say traditional? I suppose main deck Magus in the mono Blue deck isn’t exactly the norm, at least in Extended, but it seems like it is good enough in Legacy. While I assumed that I would be helping the Tron matchup, that wasn’t quite the case. I prefer to play test games as if my opponents know my decklist, or at least the cards in it. Once they know the Magus is there, Tron can pretty easily keep its mana open. Obviously the games it resolved it was amazing. With Grudges to kill their Signets it should get even better, but overall it was too difficult to resolve and protect a Magus to make it worthwhile.

PLU just doesn’t do anything sick to your opponent. You play fair. You’re also possibly the biggest grinder deck in the entire format. Game 1s are usually rough because of that, as you have eight dead cards against non aggro decks, and against aggro decks you really need to draw those eight.

UW Tron was sort of boring, so I decided to branch out. Was UG Tron really dead? Sure, Moment’s Peace is a crushing loss, but there’s got to be another way to stem the bleeding. Here is what I tried:

You are probably noticing a lot of similarities in the ways that I build decks, specifically in this format. For multicolored decks, I have the minimum amount of duals and basically the maximum amount of fetch lands. There are some Dragon Stompy decks running around, and Blood Moon effects, combined with Molten Rain, are reason enough to dust off your basic lands.

The singleton Goyf and Miren are present in this list as well, for the reasons I stated earlier.

I’m not a big fan of the Platinum Angel, but it’s much easier to Gifts for it than Mindslaver against Affinity. That matchup is largely a goldfish, as UG Tron is basically a combo deck. The lack of Moment’s Peace (and cutting Chrome Mox for Wall of Roots) means that Affinity is probably going to beat you anyway, but I figured I might as well try.

The only thing I feel I should note in this list is the ability to Gifts for four counterspells, which almost every list I’ve seen eschews. You don’t necessarily need the Negate as you have the Merchant Scroll, but Negate has proven to be very solid in this format.

Decree of Justice is a nearly unstoppable house against the majority of the decks in the format. I didn’t want to play Tron without it. Being able to cast Gifts for Loam, Tron pieces, and the Slaver lock was also very powerful. There shouldn’t be a reason why I couldn’t do both. I ended up making several brews, some UWg, some URg, and then this little number:

Don’t try this at home.

With access to the full five colors, you could go a couple different ways with this list. There are certain Gifts packages you could include that would allow you get cheat some Sundering Titans into play (as if Tron lands didn’t help you cheat enough). I think I would rather be able to have some utility between a singleton Slaver, a singleton Titan, and a couple DOJs than be all in on reanimating Titans.

Wildfire initially piqued my interest, as a way to sweep away Zoo’s army and prevent them from burning you out. Tarmogoyf and Teeg squash that plan, but then again, those cards are just good against your deck in general.

Your best bet with Tron is probably skewing it towards the aggressive decks in game 1. Those are your bad matchups, after all. You end up being so favored against decks like PLU that a few dead draws don’t you nearly as much as it hurts your opponent. In my opinion, spot removal isn’t enough to contain Zoo or Affinity, so maybe multicolored Tron is the way to go.

However, it might be best that you show some restraint and play less than the full five.

TEPS players were all over the forums of my last article. Don’t worry guys, I didn’t forget about you. They were up in arms over a UR storm deck that has just started dominating the ML tournaments.

Personally, I would know what I’m getting into when I play a combo deck. When I “go off,” I don’t want to also hope I get lucky, especially in a 16 round tournament like Pro Tour: Berlin. Despite what the forum folks say, Desire for five or six isn’t a guaranteed win. While you might be a favorite to win the game, sometimes you can get unlucky. In 16 rounds, you’re going to try and go off several times, and you can’t get lucky in all of them.

I don’t see any need for a basic Mountain, but otherwise their list seems pretty solid. I wouldn’t mind splashing for a couple Sins of the Past, Infernal Tutor, and Tendrils instead of the Swath/Shot combo, but that could be my inexperience talking. It just seems like in this deck that is heavily focused on Desire, I want to be able to find it (Infernal, sometimes) and then be able to continue chaining Desires once I actually fire one off (Sins).

Some were talking about cutting Lotus Bloom, but that’s just ridiculous. While you could sideboard it out against some slower decks that have answers like Grudge, I don’t see any reason to cut Lotus. Sure, it can disrupted, but it’s also your best Ritual by far.

I’ve provided 13 different deck lists in this two parter, but I’ve barely scratched the surface. There are plenty of other viable decks out there, like Astral Slide and Doran. With all these options, I have no idea what I’m going to play in Berlin. I’m definitely open to suggestion.