Peebles Primers – Off The Extended Path

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Extended, it seems, is a format in which innovation is possible. Mike Flores, for example, ran a deck that killed with Rith’s Charm and Biorhythm. With so much mana-fixing available, and powerful cards across all colors, the sky is the limit. Beware, however… because that sky could be filled with the harsh glare of a Blood Moon… Can your PTQ weapon of choice weather a plethora of nonbasic land hatred?

It has been said by many, myself included, that the two big decks in Extended are Doran-based “Rock” decks and Counterbalance-based Blue decks. I covered Doran last week, and Patrick Chapin has talked at great length about his specific version of Counterbalance, so today I want to talk about something more off-the-radar.

Before I jump in, though, I want to look at the manabases of two decks: the Doran deck that won the PTQ in New York a little over a week ago, and Chapin’s Next-Level Blue deck from that same week. First up: Doran.

1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plains
2 Polluted Delta
1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
1 Swamp
2 Temple Garden
4 Treetop Village
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Windswept Heath
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Chrome Mox

That’s twenty-eight mana sources, some of which are more fragile than others. What I mean to say is that Birds of Paradise is less likely to give you Green mana than Okina, which is in turn less likely to give you green mana than Forest. Why is that? Well, I’m getting there…

1 Academy Ruins
3 Breeding Pool
4 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Polluted Delta
7 Snow-Covered Island
1 Watery Grave
3 Chrome Mox

This is only twenty-four mana sources, but they’re much more hearty than those in the Doran deck. However, there is no way for this deck to make non-Blue mana with a basic land. Why do I keep mentioning basic lands? Because two decks are on the rise: Destructive Flow “Rock” and Blood Moon Aggro.

The ways in which the two decks attack your mana are very different. Blood Moon has an immediate impact on your available mana, and doesn’t provide any window for your nonbasic lands to give you the colors you’d usually expect. Destructive Flow doesn’t actually stop your lands from doing what they were meant to do, but it does give them only a short window in which they’re available for use. In other words, Blood Moon limits the quality of your mana, while Destructive Flow limits the quantity of your mana. Of course, if you have a large number of basics, you might be able to work your way around either of these enchantments.

This means that surviving the two enchantments is very different too. There isn’t really a pressing need to get rid of Blood Moon, in so far as getting rid of it will bring you right back to where you need to be, no matter when that happens. On the other hand, letting a Destructive Flow sit on the table for seven turns probably means that you won’t be able to function even if you remove it. Luckily, though, quickly getting out from under Destructive Flow is much easier than getting out from under Blood Moon, just because your mana works fine on your turn.

However, I predict that these two enchantments are going to gain popularity quickly, because the two manabases above are very vulnerable to them. The Counterbalance manabase is much more vulnerable to Blood Moon than to Destructive Flow, since the Moon will shut out all of the deck’s non-Mox Green sources. The Doran manabase is pretty vulnerable to both hosers; it has only three basic lands. However, cobbling together an answer to Blood Moon is going to allow life as normal to resume.

The Blood Moon Deck

A friend of mine had become frustrated with his previous PTQ choice, Counterbalance, after a poor performance shared by him and his friends. I was told on the following Monday that Rakdos Pit Dragon was “insane” and that he was going to start killing people with Arc-Slogger. This obviously sounded foolish to me at the time, but it turns out that he might be on to something. The real key to the deck, though, was the fact that it included eight copies of Blood Moon.

One of my roommates dubbed this deck the “All-In” deck, and claimed that he simply asked Chris whether his opponents called or folded after each round. In all honesty, he also failed to make the Top 8 with this deck, but he didn’t fall flat on his face either. However, there were multiple people in the room with the same idea as him, and Blood Moon’s presence was felt all day long.

This is certainly the most extreme version of a Blood Moon deck that I’ve ever seen. There are twenty accelerants in the deck, so there’s almost no chance that a Blood Moon in your hand will come down later than turn 2. In addition, these rituals help power out one of ten fatty finishers (and Rakdos Pit Dragon will appreciate the fact that you’ve burned your hand getting him into play instantly), and they will easily lock the game up before your opponent can even think about working around the Moon. Unfortunately, if you run into someone playing White Weenie, you might find five sixths of your deck irrelevant.

It is also worth mentioning that there is another build of the deck that I don’t have a complete decklist for, but that has been doing well in Magic Online Premiere Events. The difference is that it is more built around the Rituals, rather than simply using them as a means to early big spells. In one Top 8 performance, he powered out a first-turn Empty the Warrens against his Ideal opponent, who only barely clung onto the game with a rawdogged Solitary Confinement on turn 3 and a Blue Honden on turn 5. Thirty turns later he died to Flaring Pain. This list hasn’t been performing at the highest levels of consistency, but it’s extremely flashy when it all comes together.

I’m not convinced that either of those decklists is the right way to abuse Blood Moon, but the goal of locking someone under the Moon and then finishing them fast might easily be incorporated into another decklist that performed well in the first Boston-area PTQ:

Kird Ape and Tarmogoyf aren’t thrilled about Blood Moon, but the basic Forest can easily be fetched out in games where this is a concern. Meanwhile, the deck has much of the raw power of my friend’s mono-Red deck, though it’s going to have to settle for a second-turn 4/5 instead of a first-turn one. Still, this deck can certainly close games out fast enough as it is, and shouldn’t have any trouble capitalizing on the fact that the opponent is struggling to do anything at all while under the Moon.

The Destructive Flow Deck

Cedric Phillips made it to the Top 8 in Detroit, falling to Patrick Chapin in the quarterfinals. Undeterred, he showed up at Cleveland this past weekend, and successfully took home the invitation.

The similarities between this deck and the Doran decks are likely not coincidental. Many of the creatures are exactly the same, though Troll Ascetic fills in for Doran (obviously, Flow doesn’t play White). Even in terms of spells, we continue to see Profane Command, Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, and Smother. In other words, this deck has emulated the core of the Doran deck, but replaced the super-strength of a three-mana 5/5 with non-basic land hate.

The first iterations of the Aggro Flow deck that I saw last year were built around equipment. They used the best efficient creatures, which were Troll Ascetic and Kird Ape in a world without Tarmogoyf, and they enhanced these guys with Sword of Fire and Ice and Umezawa’s Jitte. This iteration of the deck still has the Jittes and the Trolls, but it’s moved more towards a regular Aggro Rock feel.

With two consistently good appearances under his belt, Cedric is likely to influence the field for a long time to come. When you choose your deck in the future, you’ll have to decide just how much utility you want from your lands, because upgrading that Forest to an Okina might just lose you the finals of your PTQ.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the forums, via email, or on AIM.

Benjamin Peebles-Mundy
ben at mundy dot net
SlickPeebles on AIM