Positive EV – Austin Extended

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Wednesday, October 14th – Pro Tour: Austin begins later this week, and Manuel Bucher is ready for action! Today, he walks us through a selection of decks that he believes will make a splash on the Extended Metagame Radar. Zoo, Hypergenesis, Blue decks, even Elves… What will take the crown when the dust settles?

As Olivier was attending the Grand Prix in Melbourne, we had a lot of trouble arranging a time when we could actually write about the Zendikar Limited format together. This is why I have to disappoint you today, but we are planning to do it in near future, most probably next week. As most of you know, I have been testing the past few weeks for the upcoming Pro Tour in Austin, and as you are reading this, I am on my way there. Even though I would love to share some Standard advice for those among you that are attending the Last Chance Qualifier, I have to admit I haven’t played Standard recently. Therefore, I will share some of my experience of the current Extended format.

First of all, we have two very similar, yet very different, Wild Nacatl decks. The first is a list that was very popular at the end of last season, but now it’s got Goblin Guide and Lightning Bolt to help out for more power without losing anything spectacular.

4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 Goblin Guide
1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Hate two-drops
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Woolly Thoctar
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Lightning Helix

4 Path to Exile
3 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Misty Rainforest
1 Marsh Flats
3 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
1 Plains
1 Forest
1 Mountain
2 Sacred Foundry

The “Hate two-drops” include Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg, and Qasali Pridemage. And we often switched up on that drop depending on the deck we were playing against. The deck is very hard to attack on any angle, and is very consistent in what it does. The downside, though, is that it is a pretty fair deck for the current format, and therefore might be a bit too slow… but it definitely is one of the best fair decks. Goblin Guide has been amazing for me, and really annoying to play against. I can’t understand why a lot of the lists posted are not using him. Especially when combined with Umezawa’s Jitte, he is able to turn around games. Trying to make the deck a bit more unfair, we went back to the more old school Five-Color Zoo strategy, which looks like this:

The deck has a much more powerful unfair draw than the Naya Zoo list posted above. However, it is much less consistent. Steppe Lynx can shine in some games but then be almost a blank in the very next game. There are no cards that can interact with an opponent’s combo main deck, and it therefore often scoops to something like a turn 3 Hypergenesis, while the Naya Zoo could possible play an Ethersworn Canonist before that turn. This list is also not playing Path to Exile, which might not be correct, but it is built to have the most unfair draws. Path to Exile is the very best card to deal with Tarmogoyfs, but as not every deck is using them, we didn’t want blanks in our testing. If your deck is able to fight both versions of the Wild Nacatl deck, you can be pretty sure that you are able to deal with almost any beatdown deck showing up at Austin. A mix of beatdown and combo is the Burn deck, which last year guaranteed a seat in the Worlds Top 8 for the current World Champion Antti Malin. This deck also profits a lot from Goblin Guide and Lightning Bolt, making the deck far better than it was before.

The deck punishes heavy fetchland draws a lot, and is very difficult to handle. The downside is that it is almost impossible to deal with Hypergenesis, as Chalice of the Void is one of the few sideboard options you have to deal with the horrible matchup. It also has a lot of trouble dealing with Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, which some Ranger of Eos Zoo lists are using as a sideboard option. Kitchen Finks and Loxodon Hierarchs are troublesome, and they will get used by Rock-style decks in order to fight Wild Nacatls.

I have been trying to build a good-stuff Blue deck trying to play all the best cards in Extended in order to fight a high variety of decks. Even though it didn’t end up being very successful, I still share the list.

Blood Moon, which I expected to be very good in the metagame, ended up being very disappointing, and I spent a lot of time trying to get the most out of the card. I expected it to be very effective against the Cascade decks and any form of Zoo. It could even deal with the less expected Scapeshift and Dark Depths combo decks. The truth is, though, that it is usually far too slow. Naya Zoo is running several basic lands, and if they expect Blood Moon they can just fetch up their Forest and Plains before you are able to cast the card. Against Hypergenesis, you fear to tap out for a Blood Moon if they have two mana up, as they could combo you off in response. Therefore I often chose to sit back on my Mana Leak and Venser, Shaper Savant. In addition, the Path to Exiles from Naya were usually pretty deadly, as you can’t count on your Tarmogoyf surviving, or at least be able to block before a burn spell takes it down. In order to make Blood Moon effective, you have to be able to cast it on turn 2, therefore I tried to build a deck running Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarchs to get there. Again, the deck wasn’t very good in what it did, but it is pretty fun too look at.

Before I played my first game with the deck, Antoine and I had a bet that I wouldn’t win against a random opponent online. I was facing a Mono Red opponent, running Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon as well. Lucky me! He had a lot of trouble dealing with Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks, and I won the bet smoothly. Bad news for the deck is that its only way to deal with Tarmogoyf is the combo of Sarkhan Vol and Greater Gargadon, which, even though it’s a lot of fun, is just far too romantic. In addition, the deck is just not running enough cards — the one-mana accelerators and the eight Blood Moon effects are dead cards as soon as your opponent is able to survive an early Blood Moon effect, and therefore you are in really bad shape if this happens. If you are lucky enough to face a deck that is scooping to an early Blood Moon, the deck is very effective. Maybe not as effective as All-In Red.

Presenting the enemy of the format… Hypergenesis.

I often see lists online which are not running the full set of Forbidden Orchards, which in my opinion is just wrong. Demonic Dread is by far the worst Hypergenesis enabler and needs help in some matchups to find a target. The ability of Forbidden Orchard, putting a token into play on your opponent’s side, never costs you a game, at least pre-board. The possibility to enable you to play your Demonic Dread might win you many. The choice of fatties is pretty usual. A lot of the lists you find online are running Wound Reflection, but I don’t really see the point. If it comboed with Magister Sphinx it could be a good card, but as it doesn’t trigger with the Magister it’s usually just better to put more big guys into play, as Wrath of God and Damnation are pretty slow for the format anyway. And if you are in fear of those, you might still just run Woodfall Primus. I hope that the Magister Sphinx / Wound Reflection ruling is right, and not another Magic Online bug. A fair amount of lists are also using Wipe Away in their main deck, which might be great against Blue decks, but can be pretty difficult to cast with the manabase I am using. Therefore Putrefy should be preferred, which does a similar job against non-Blue decks.

Last — and probably least – I built an Elf Aggro deck around Nissa Revane. Nissa itself was pretty impressive. The rest of the deck? Not so much.

The deck did a very good job in fighting any non-Blue midrange deck, especially Doran. But that’s about it. Blue’s counterspells and mass removal are too much for the deck to deal with, and the deck has a fair amount of trouble against any Wild Nacatl deck. The results against those decks is just not impressive enough to be a deck choice, as it doesn’t stand a chance against any combo deck.

This article doesn’t cover any full gauntlet at all, and there are several decks completely missing, but these are the types of decks I worked on, for the most part. Before starting the testing, I wanted to play an aggro deck using Lightning Bolts before I moved to explore Blood Moon. I was also working on Hypergenesis a little, mainly because somebody had to bite the bullet. The deck is not a real choice for me, as even though it is very strong, it also is pretty easy to hate out.

I don’t promise that you’ll be reading about Zendikar Limited featuring Oli next week. If one of us has a great result in Austin, I’m sure you’d rather read about that.

Thanks for reading, and wish me luck.

Manu B