R/G Valakut has proven itself to be a real contender in Extended. The deck put more people into the second day of competition at Grand Prix Atlanta
than any deck other than Faeries. In fact, R/G Valakut had the highest Day Two retention rate of any deck archetype.
I began working on Extended about two weeks before the Grand Prix. I worked on Faeries and U/W No Lark for a bit, but I wanted to do something more
powerful. I’ve always been a fan of combo decks in Extended. I was an avid TEPS player back in 2007, and I played Elf combo through multiple PTQ
seasons. I called Brad Nelson about five or six days prior to the Grand Prix and told him I needed a worthwhile combo deck for Extended.
Brad explained that a U/G Valakut deck had recently won a PTQ in his area. He sent me the following list:
I played about twenty matches with the deck in the first 24 hours I had it. I immediately decided that I’d be playing four copies of Valakut, the
Molten Pinnacle in whatever deck I chose to play at the Grand Prix.
I continued playing the deck and found myself losing a lot of matches because I couldn’t find an Omen. I was also frustrated with how dead
Scapeshift would always be when I didn’t have an Omen yet. Some, like JWay, have suggested playing additional Mountains in a deck like this in an
effort to make the Scapeshifts lethal. This works out most of the time, but from a strictly mathematical standpoint, this is disastrous. The sixty-six
card special draws ten percent fewer Cryptic Commands, Prismatic Omens, and ramp spells than other blue-based, Valakut decks. It also draws ten percent
more lands than its relatives. Also, you can’t just add Mountains to a decklist that already struggles to cast Cryptic Command. You still have
the same number of blue sources, sure, but the percentage of cards that tap for blue mana drops significantly.
A few friends had suggested that I try to work on a R/G Valakut deck. I looked online for lists, but I couldn’t find anything other than a few
decklists from Worlds. I decided to brew up my own list and see what I could do. Here’s what I came up with:
“Why would I want to play this deck?”
Scapeshift is a one-card combo here. If you have seven lands in play, you can search for six Mountains and a Valakut; that’s eighteen damage. If
you have eight lands, you can search for six Mountains and two Valakuts; that’s thirty-six damage. You often ramp to eight lands and kill players
on the fourth turn with a Scapeshift.
Prismatic Omen makes every land a Mountain, including the Valakuts. Each land past the fifth does three damage for each Valakut you have in play.
Fetchlands do it twice. You only need six lands in play to Scapeshift for lethal. You search for six lands including four Valakuts, and you do
seventy-two damage to your opponent.
I put the deck together on Magic Online and proceeded to win twenty-two matches in a row with the list. That’s not an exaggeration! I gave the
list to my friend, Steven Miggels, a friend who hadn’t played a single game of Extended; he went 9-0 with it. I didn’t want to mess with a good
thing. I decided to lock into this 75 and sleeve it up for the Grand Prix.
Four people ended up playing this list. Of those four, three of us made Day 2. My friend Steven Miggels ended up coming in tenth place without any byes
at all. Miggels looked like he was a lock for Top 8 when he was entering round 15 at 12-1-1, but Ari Lax decided to dream crush him out of the Top 8 in
the final round of Swiss.
If I were going to play the deck tomorrow, I’d play the following list:
This list has a few updates that make the deck more powerful in an Extended full of mirror matches and more Faeries players. I went up to four copies
of Khalni Heart Expedition. This card was always incredible for me. The only decks that I really didn’t like it against were Jund and Naya. I
doubt either of those decks will remain popular because R/G Valakut stomps them silly; it’s safe to say that you can play four copies now. Khalni
Heart Expedition is an excellent tool when you’re trying to go off on turn 4, which is certainly the case in the mirror or any creature matchup.
It’s also one of your best tools against control decks. You’d be surprised how often Khalni Heart Expedition sits in play and spikes an
opponent for eighteen damage at a later stage of the game.
A lot of people have chosen Harrow as their ramp spell of choice; I prefer a split between Harrow and Cultivate; Cultivate gives me more Blightning
resilience and helps smooth out land-light mulligan hands.
I found room for Reverberate in the sideboard. Guttural Response always felt very narrow to me. Reverberate is an excellent tool, especially in the
mirror. Reverberate counters your opponent’s counterspells; it even gives you a nice bonus when they cast a Cryptic Command. Reverberate really
shines in the mirror, though. Copying a Harrow puts you up two lands; you don’t even need to sacrifice a land. The real haymaker play comes when
your opponent casts a Scapeshift, and you have at least eight lands in play. You cast Reverberate and copy their Scapeshift. Your copy resolves first,
and you get to kill your opponent with Valakut triggers while their Scapeshift is still on the stack. I’d like to thank Pascal Maynard for this
nice piece of tech.
When I first showed people my list, they would often laugh, “So you just scoop to Faeries?” I’d tell them that I had a positive win
percentage against Faeries, and they’d usually tell me that my opponents were probably bad.
“A good Faeries player would never lose to this.”
Faeries is an interesting matchup. Mistbind Clique is a huge beating, and you don’t really have a way to interact with it. Prismatic Omen is,
without any doubt, your most powerful spell. If your opponent taps out on turn 2 for a Bitterblossom, it’s absolutely imperative you use that
opportunity to resolve a Prismatic Omen. If you’re on the play, it’s absolutely imperative you use your second turn to resolve a Prismatic
Omen. Once you’ve resolved that, the Faeries player will have a very difficult time racing your land drops; they’ll be forced to awkwardly
use Cryptic Commands in an attempt to put you off your Prismatic Omen. This will give you an opportunity to resolve things like Primeval Titan, which
they basically scoop to. It’s important to remember that Faeries will almost always lose the game when you resolve a Scapeshift, Prismatic Omen,
or Primeval Titan. You can often race Faeries simply by playing Mountains and ramp spells alongside a Valakut. Here’s how I would sideboard for
the Faerie matchup.
I take out the Primal Command and Lightning Bolt. Reverberate interacts with the most important card in the matchup, Cryptic Command. Volcanic Fallout
is a nice sweeper that can buy you a lot of time to sculpt a perfect turn. Inferno Titan helps increase your density of must-counter spells when you
take out the Primal Commands.
Naya is a very easy matchup. Remember, you want to be a pure combo deck when you’re playing against non-blue decks. If you have a Scapeshift in
hand, you should try to ramp into seven or eight lands as quickly as possible to cast a Scapeshift and dome them for lethal damage. Racing them is
usually very easy. Here’s how I sideboard for this matchup:
I like taking out my enchantments here. Naya often brings in a few copies of War Priest of Thune alongside some extra Qasali Pridemages. I make a lot
of their cards look stupid by siding out my enchantments. The cards that come in are somewhat obvious. You want to maximize the number of ways you have
to kill Gaddock Teeg and make the race less scary.
Jund is similar to the Naya matchup but not quite as easy. They don’t kill you as quickly, but their Blightnings can often disrupt you enough to
make the match close. Cultivate really shines here. You want to hold a hand of three cards to protect the key spell you need to resolve. Here’s
how I sideboard:
Jund usually keeps in their Maelstrom Pulses; they often bring in additional enchantment removal. Taking out our permanents makes them have a lot of
dead cards. Obstinate Baloth does a great job fighting their Blightnings. The 4/4 body is also very relevant here. Obstinate Baloth can successfully
block every creature in their deck besides the Demigod of Revenge and Putrid Leech.
Wargate and U/G Valakut:
This is certainly our worst matchup. A lot of people assume it’s unwinnable, but our deck is very capable of racing them or punishing them when
they don’t have the Scapeshift/Omen combo on a key turn. Try to stay ahead on mana. You can make their Mana Leaks dead very quickly. Once you
have the land advantage, then only their Cryptic Commands matter. Here’s how I sideboard:
These people think they have an advantage, but they actually have little to no shot unless they have cards like Flashfreeze and Essence Scatter. Their
deck needs to tap out, and they often give us opportunities to resolve spells that win the game. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Baneslayer Angel are
almost dead cards here. This is how I sideboard:
Cryptic Command is the only card you care about. Reverberate does a good job of handling those. Nature’s Claim deals with cards like Leyline of
Sanctity. Speaking of Leyline of Sanctity, some people seem to think R/G Valakut scoops to this card. Miggels claims that the card was in play on the
other side of the table on eight separate occasions throughout the Grand Prix. Miggels won all eight of those games.
This deck operates very similarly to the U/W Control decks in Extended. They need to tap out to make anything happen, and we can simply topdeck cards
that outright win games.
Our reasoning here is identical to the U/W Control matchup.
It’s a race! Winning the roll is pretty important here. Extended red decks are very capable of winning on the fourth turn. If you know that your
opponent is on the red plan in game one, then you need to mulligan aggressively to find either a Bolt or a combination of ramp and Scapeshift. Primal
Command is a beating for them.
Luckily, we get green cards in our sideboard. Red hates post-board games against us. We’re still very capable of winning on turn 4, but now we
have seven life gain spells.
Surprisingly similar to the game one against Mono-Red. Ramp to your Scapeshift as fast as you can.
After sideboarding, we can interact with their more important creatures. A lot of games post-board will be easily won after you kill a key lord and
leave them with a bunch of awkward 1/1s.
R/G Valakut is here to stay. The deck is powerful and consistent. It’s capable of beating everything. Hopefully, this column helped deepen your
understanding of the archetype. I’d love to hear your praise/criticism in the forums.