Removed From Game – Removed From Extended

The StarCityGames.com Open Series comes to St. Louis!
Tuesday, June 22nd – With an ear close to the ground, you might have known this was coming. As far back as the closing months of 2009, there were rumors surfacing around various forums that Extended was not in a particularly healthy place, and that Wizards were contemplating a shakeup in the format that sits in an odd place in the structure of the game as a whole.

With an ear close to the ground, you might have known this was coming. As far back as the closing months of 2009, there were rumors surfacing around various forums that Extended was not in a particularly healthy place, and that Wizards were contemplating a shakeup in the format that sits in an odd place in the structure of the game as a whole.

With a seven year cycle, Extended has been an utterly brutal format, in terms of the streamlined nature of the decks and how violently they prey on each other. While Legacy was a niche market for those who couldn’t own the Power cards (or even the power cards) for Vintage, Extended was the flagship format for long-term competitive players who wanted value out of their investments beyond a two year Standard cycle.

The thing is, selling Extended to a wider audience was always a tough ask. There’s precious little fun to be had with a ‘casual’ deck in Extended, since it will be consistently ripped to shreds by any mainline deck worth its salt. Affinity, Scapeshift, Thopter Depths, Zoo… your chances of piloting a March of the Machines deck to victory were very, very small.

Then, of course, there was a seismic shift in the perception of Legacy. To the few who were ‘in at the start’, they’re getting what they deserved — a feeling of smugness that they’ve got all the key cards at a fraction of the price that Johnny-come-latelies are paying. They also get to say ‘we told you so,’ as I distinctly remember the passion of the Legacy community at the time of Worlds 2007, when Legacy was the second Constructed Format. You know what? I admit it, they’re right, Legacy’s awesome.

So that left Extended in a pretty strange place. Casual players wouldn’t touch it, the deck requirements for success were exacting, Magic Online was moving towards Legacy. And yet, there still needed to be a bridge between Standard and the Eternal Formats. That’s all the more important when you consider the lack of support for Block Constructed. For someone who has played for two years, being told that the start of their Legacy collection needs to be forty Dual lands that were last printed sometime in the twelfth century AD is not good news. That said, Extended as it stood held out something of a false bargain for these newer players. Let’s say you play Block in year one. In year two, you expand outward, and start playing Standard with your growing collection. But how many of those cards made the leap to playability in a seven-year Extended? Not many.

Now, admittedly, we still don’t know how far that situation will improve with a move to four-year Extended, but it will improve for certain. For one thing, part of what made Extended so brutal was the existence of certain cards that rendered entire swathes of cards null and void. That’s the nature of every format — if you got rid of all the good creatures in Rise of the Eldrazi you’d end up playing Haze Frog and Hand of Emrakul — but the bigger the gene pool, the larger this problem.

So what does new Extended look like? We get access to the following sets:

Time Spiral
Time Shifted
Planar Chaos
Future Sight


Shards of Alara
Alara Reborn

Rise of the Eldrazi

10th Edition
Magic 2010

Banned: Hypergenesis and Sword Of The Meek are banned.

We then have the forthcoming addition of Magic 2011, about which we still know relatively little, and Scars of Mirrodin when it appears in the Fall of 2011. As far as Pro Tour: Amsterdam is concerned, only M11 remains to be unveiled before we know exactly what we have to work with. To whet the appetite, here’s a guide to what the shape of Extended might look like:


As always, lands are the great facilitators, and there’s little point looking at any other class of card until we’ve worked out just how our mana might look. Time Spiral Block has several interesting individual lands. Academy Ruins has been tremendous historically, while Flagstones Of Trokair and Pendlehaven have found homes. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth was a key component in decks, while Future Sight brings us a bevy of ‘weird’ duals, like Graven Cairns, River of Tears, and Horizon Canopy.

In Lorwyn, we got the ‘tribal’ duals, which are unlikely to cut it at Extended level. The Hideaway lands featured Spinerock Knoll and Windbrisk Heights, both of which saw plenty of action, and the Vivid lands, which were absolutely everywhere. Morningtide brought us the highly acclaimed, and highly played, Mutavault. Reflecting Pool was a Shadowmoor reprint that was less played than first time around, while the Future Sight Graven Cairns became a full cycle here. With Cascade Bluffs in Eventide we got the Allied filter lands.

As a multi-color Block, Shards of Alara gave us a fleet of Panoramas and Tri-lands to help us out. Conflux brought a ragbag of oddness, and it’s debatable whether any of Ancient Ziggurat, Exotic Orchard, Reliquary Tower, Rupture Spire, or Unstable Frontier, can make it.

Then came Zendikar Block, with a stack of options. Zendikar itself gave us the Refuges, the powerful fetch lands, plus a selection of one-offs that all found a home — Emeria, The Sky Ruin; Oran-Rief, The Vastwood; Teetering Peaks; and Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle. Worldwake added the ‘manlands,’ and although Creeping Tar Pit is only starting to find a home, cards like Celestial Colonnade and Raging Ravine quickly earned slots. Khalni Garden and Halimar Depths are also candidates, while Tectonic Edge could be very important, which I doubt we’ll say about Eldrazi Temple.

As for the Core Sets, we get all the painlands from 10th Edition, both allied and enemy color pairings i.e. Adarkar Wastes and Caves Of Koilos. We also get Treetop Village, and, more tenuously perhaps, Faerie Conclave. M10 rounds things out with the duals that people don’t seem to think are duals, which come into play tapped unless you already have one of the two basics in play (Dragonskull Summit et al.)

With Vivid lands, fetch lands, and every painland, there’s not going to be a problem finding whatever color of mana you like. Amongst the individual lands, Academy Ruins; Urborg, Tomb Of Yawgmoth; Mutavault; and Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle seem to stand out.


Obviously, even with a four year cycle, there are hundreds and hundreds of creatures to choose from. When picking out highlight choices, it’s especially difficult when you can’t mention all the possible ‘role players’ within specific archetypes. Elvish Visionary is a playable Sealed deck and draft card that, alone, has no business being anywhere near Extended. Yet, as we know full well, it sits perfectly adequately in Extended Pro Tour winning decks. In this list, we’ll be concentrating more on potentially powerful individual monsters, rather than the synergy that can turn average into a key component of a strategy.

Time Spiral sets us off with Bogardan Hellkite, and that could be a massive part of a big deck. Another huge monster is Greater Gargadon, while tricky Blue mages get Vesuvan Shapeshifter, and Teferi, Mage Of Zhalfir. Once you get to Time Shifted, the four cards that stand out are Akroma, Angel Of Wrath; Mystic Snake; Soltari Priest; and Wall Of Roots. The Wall has been a staple of mana producers across multiple formats, and might have a home. There seem to be plenty of ways to make monsters bigger, in which case Soltari Priest might be aggressive enough. Mystic Snake used to be awesome, and could be worth a look to check that it’s still not powerful enough for new Extended. As for Akroma, well, she’s Akroma, but is she three mana better than Baneslayer Angel Planar Chaos was demonstrably rubbish, but Simian Spirit Guide slots into a Red Combo deck. Future Sight closed out the Block with Sideboard-useful Yixlid Jailer; Narcomoeba; Venser, Shaper Savant; Tombstalker; and arguably the best creature ever printed, Tarmogoyf. Already in high demand, I wonder what people will make of unopened Future Sight boxes…

Lorwyn offers a bunch of standouts. Obviously, we have the core of assorted white weenie decks, but there are powerful cards like Doran, the Siege Tower; Gaddock Teeg; Mirror Entity; Mulldrifter; Shriekmaw; the tedious little Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender; and the faerie pair of Mistbind Clique and Spellstutter Sprite. Morningtide wasn’t so exciting, but still gives us a significant toy to play with in Reveillark, and another piece of the faeries puzzle with Vendilion Clique.

Shadowmoor has some interesting cards that might well not end up being good enough, but are still worth a look — cards like Boggart Ram-Gang and Swans of Bryn Argoll. Shadowmoor is also home to Plumeveil, Kitchen Finks, and the core of the All-In Red decks, both Demigod Of Revenge, and Deus Of Calamity. The follow-up, Eventide, only has one serious contender, but any Aggro deck will be interested in Figure Of Destiny.

Now we’re into familiar territory with Shards Block. Shards itself gave Jund Sprouting Thrinax and Broodmate Dragon. Wild Nacatl, Woolly Thoctar, Tidehollow Sculler, Rhox War Monk, and Ranger Of Eos are all currently played, while there are niche items like Ethersworn Canonist, Knight Of The White Orchid, and Rafiq Of The Many. One of the absolute Standard standouts comes from Conflux. Knight Of The Reliquary has been spectacular, unlike two other cards that still might slot in somewhere, Hellspark Elemental, and Progenitus. Of course, one of the massive cards from the Block comes from Alara Reborn, and is perhaps one of the most hated cards ever printed, not for what it is itself, but because of it being the poster child for the bogeyman deck, Jund — Bloodbraid Elf. Reborn also gave us Putrid Leech, and for Blue Control players, Wall Of Denial, and possibly Meddling Mage.

In Zendikar, a strong Vampire theme might make Extended room for Bloodghast, Malakir Bloodwitch, Vampire Hexmage (although this will no longer be the trigger for Dark Depths shenanigans), and Vampire Nighthawk. The two Sphinxes highlight Blue (Sphinx Of Lost Truths, and Sphinx Of Jwar Isle), while White has Emeria Angel, and the absurd Iona, Shield Of Emeria, if a home can be found for her. It’s possible that some kind of milling strategy will work, in which case cards like Hedron Crab and Archive Trap might become relevant. It’s very hard to tell what Aggro might look like, but maybe Plated Geopede, Goblin Bushwhacker, or Goblin Ruinblaster, might make the grade.

There’s very little to be excited about in Worldwake, as it’s hard to imagine Cunning Sparkmage being good enough, even with Basilisk Collar. There might well be better options than Kor Firewalker, so perhaps the best chance is if someone can finally find something good to do with Abyssal Persecutor. Rise of the Eldrazi has — surprise! – the Eldrazi to consider. Are you going to be able to do something with Emrakul, The Aeons Torn? Linvala, Keeper Of Silence is a sideboard kind of girl, while Ramp decks potentially get Overgrown Battlement. Vengevine may well find a slot, and Kargan Dragonlord can get big fast.

Amongst the core sets, there are some real heavy hitters. Between 10th Edition and M10, there are at least ten really, really solid cards that contend. Green and Red have the bulk of these. Green gets Birds Of Paradise, Llanowar Elves, Troll Ascetic (which might struggle), and Great Sable Stag. Red gets Mogg Fanatic, Siege-Gang Commander, and Ball Lightning. Someone will try to make Vampire Nocturnus work, while two Angels round out the list. Platinum Angel is in both sets, while Baneslayer Angel was the ultimate in M10 booster opening.

As a snap judgment, here are a few of the real highlights, the cards that should help define the new format:

Sphinx Of Jwar Isle
Broodmate Dragon
Ranger Of Eos
Knight Of The Reliquary
Bloodbraid Elf
Figure Of Destiny
Bogardan Hellkite
Teferi, Mage Of Zhalfir
Baneslayer Angel


When I was wading through the setlists, I was surprised how few Sorceries made the list of cards we might be interested in. Obviously, I’ve left out all the niggling little cards that do a very, very narrow job efficiently, but there were still fewer cards than I expected. I think I tend to think of Constructed Magic as being dominated by spells rather than creatures, and that may be true. It’s just that there aren’t all that many of them that really cut the mustard.

Take Time Spiral Block for instance. I can tentatively point you toward Gaea’s Blessing, Stupor, Tribal Flames, and Void from the Time Shifted set, but the only card from there that screams possibilities is Dragonstorm. Planar Chaos and Future Sight have almost nothing to offer at Sorcery speed, with Damnation the only clear possibility, not that it seems overly likely. At least the main Time Spiral set has some interesting possibles at Sorcery, including the Suspend cards like Ancestral Vision, Rift Bolt, and Search For Tomorrow. Grapeshot, Empty The Warrens, and Ignite Memories all point towards a Dragonstorm deck, while Living End might be viable. There’s also Dread Return if a graveyard strategy can survive the disappearance of the Dredge mechanic.

From Lorwyn Block, we get Thoughtseize, Ponder, Scapeshift, and Firespout, while there are also cards like Primal Command, Mind Spring and Mind Shatter, and Raven’s Crime, all of which have been useful in the last few years to somebody. Alara Block is clearly headlined by three cards — Blightning, Maelstrom Pulse, and, of course, Cruel Ultimatum. There are meagre pickings once again in Zendikar Block, with question marks against All Is Dust, Devastating Summons, and Conqueror’s Pledge, leaving Day Of Judgment as the only Sorcery from the Block that appears to have unshakeable credentials. In the Core Sets, things perk up, since we get Duress, Polymorph, and Open The Vaults from M10, while Deathmark, Pyroclasm, Tidings, and Wrath Of God.


Time Spiral has a few intriguing cards. Ancient Grudge won’t be so useful now Affinity has gone, and Pull From Eternity is only a Sideboard candidate. Tendrils of Corruption plays nicely with Urborg, Tomb Of Yawgmoth, and that’s the kind of deck that also might use Haunting Hymn. The really interesting card is Mystical Teachings. This was dominant in Block, but had no chance in seven-year Extended. I wonder whether four years is small enough to make it work? The only card from Time Shifted in this category is Whispers Of The Muse, but it’s unlikely to have suddenly become the weapon of choice, and is probably just a nostalgic throwback. Planar Chaos has Extirpate, while Future Sight has the cycle of Pacts. Watching Jelger Wiegersma cast Pact Of Negation in a white weenie deck that had zero ways to pay for it was a great Pro Tour memory, and Slaughter Pact might also be useful.

Almost everything useful from Lorwyn Block comes from the first main set. You might make a case for Flame Javelin and Manamorphose from Shadowmoor, and Unmake made it into a few decks from Eventide. Morningtide has Negate, but, as I say, it’s in Lorwyn itself that the bulk of the power lies. Broken Ambitions helped fuel control strategies, and one of the big players is Cryptic Command. A huge presence in Five-Color Control decks, it will be interesting to see whether that deck can make it in the revised slimline Extended.

In Shards, we begin with a card that is awesome in a Format notionally ‘above’ Extended, Legacy. That card is Ad Nauseam, but the reason it works so well in Legacy is because of all the cheap cards you can find en route to your Tendrils Of Agony kill. In utility terms, there are the cycle of Charms, and the utterly niche Angelsong, if Turbo Fog is your thing. Conflux brings us quality removal in Celestial Purge, Volcanic Fallout, and Path To Exile, while it’s questionable whether Bituminous Blast (understandably) or Terminate (more puzzlingly) will find a home.

Cancel is the baseline counterspell from Zendikar, with Rise of the Eldrazi bringing us a hard counter alternative in Deprive, and I’ve already mentioned Archive Trap. It’s possible that several traps will become viable. Punishing Fire is still there, and so is the devastating counterpart, Grove Of The Burnwillows. This is an engine that was more than good enough for seven-year Extended, and will only really get worse if the metagame shifts entirely to creatures that Punishing Fire can’t touch. Even though, it’s an inevitable engine that must be a feature. More removal rounds out the block, with cards like Burst Lightning, Searing Blaze, Smother, Staggershock, and Vendetta possible contenders.

As you’d expect of the Core Sets, there is some very good, very cheap removal. 10th Edition has Shock and Condemn at one mana apiece, with Terror at two. Also at two mana comes Flashfreeze, and so too is Twincast, which is a card positively begging to be abused.

Of the spells available, it’s always interesting to see what kind of place a Wrath Of God/Day Of Judgment/Damnation has in the format. Sometimes these are format-defining, and sometimes they’re niche. Even with a four-year Extended, removal is going to be plentiful, cheap, efficient, and deadly. I imagine Cryptic Command is going to be a card people spend a lot of time looking at, and I’d love to think that Guillaume Wafo-Tapa is already getting to work on Mystical Teachings.


There aren’t a ton of interesting enchantments, but there are still some very powerful ones. In Time Spiral Block, it’s possible that Temporal Isolation might find a use, while the Time Shifted cards include Enduring Renewal, Sacred Mesa, Stormbind, and Teferi’s Moat. While the Moat is essentially a Sideboard card, the other three have all been part of successful decks. Future Sight adds the super-powered Bridge From Below (although, as we’ve noted, Ravnica’s elimination puts paid to Dredge as such) and Pyromancer’s Swath, which briefly became focal to a ‘hot deck’ a few years ago.

Oblivion Ring first appeared in Lorwyn, and although there’s only one other meaningful Enchantment in the Block, it’s potentially huge — Bitterblossom. This was the number one hate card before it went out of Standard, and we’ve already mentioned plenty of the cards that went right along with it to make Faeries a really powerful choice. Oblivion Ring comes again in Shards, while, if you’re looking for something unusual, Reborn is the home of Finest Hour.

Zendikar adds Journey To Nowhere to the White removal suite, and there are at least two Ascensions of interest, with both Luminarch, Pyromancer’s, and Beastmaster’s seeing play at various levels. And how about one of the most irritating cards ever printed, Spreading Seas? We round out with Rise, and you just wonder whether anyone will try to make Eldrazi Conscription work. +10/+10 is a lot, and it has one of the best keywords in Magic attached, Trample. Finally, we have the Core Sets, which feature another group of cards that you could certainly build decks around, but which might not ultimately get the job done — Abundance, March Of The Machines, and Seismic Assault.

Overall, while there are plenty of Enchantments that might lead to a decent deck, there’s one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest, and that’s Bitterblossom.


We’re on the home stretch now, and it’s time to look at the cards that anyone can play, regardless of color. Time Spiral Block has plenty of Artifacts that might slot into various roles. Chromatic Star works in Dragonstorm, and so does Lotus Bloom. Locket Of Yesterdays was a deck round about Worlds 2006, and people have also tried to use Phyrexian Totem, Prismatic Lens, Stuffy Doll, and Trsikelavus with success. From Time Shifted we can add Claws Of Gix to the Dragonstorm pile, while Dodecapod has often been in Sideboards, as has Tormod’s Crypt, which may no longer be an issue. One of the big standouts would have been Sword Of The Meek, but that’s one of just two cards that have been Banned from the new format.

Shards Block had a huge slew of Artifacts, largely because the Esper Shard was all about Artifact Creatures. Perhaps of most interest beyond the power and toughness brigade are the Borderposts from Alara Reborn, Thopter Foundry — deprived of its Sword partner — Time Sieve, and maybe the Scepters from Conflux. Zendikar has the obvious Eldrazi Monument, the subtle Expedition Map, and the Equipment Trusty Machete. It’s possible that Basilisk Collar can make the jump, though I doubt it, while Everflowing Chalice seems entirely feasible as part of an upgraded Tap Out Control.

The Core Sets again present some interesting possibilities, with 10th giving us Loxodon Warhammer, a card that turns games around in a hurry. While Darksteel Colossus has probably been superseded, M10 gives us the utility of Pithing Needle, the deckbuilder-friendly Howling Mine, and the occasionally good enough Platinum Angel.


And finally, we couldn’t leave without a word for this lot of super-powered goodness. At the very least, you can point to nine of the Planeswalkers and expect to see them in Extended: Ajani Goldmane; Ajani Vengeant; Nicol Bolas; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Garruk Wildspeaker; Gideon Jura; Jace Beleren; Jace, The Mind Sculptor; and Tezzeret The Seeker. That’s an incredibly powerful line-up, and one of the largest shifts in Extended is the increased power of these new class of permanents.


I nearly called this article ‘Why Neil Rigby Won’t Win Pro Tour Amsterdam (And Neither Can You)’ because I truly think this shifts the Amsterdam goalposts vastly towards the most connected of the Pros. As I set out a couple of weeks ago, I believed that the known terrain of the seven-year Extended Metagame, taken with the known Metagame of M11 Draft, would allow even average Qualifiers to have a legitimate shot at doing well in Amsterdam, if they decided to commit to a vigorous testing regime.

That opportunity has now largely gone. I can hear my good friend Paulo cheering wildly at this, since he posted in the Forums that he was concerned at how ‘random’ Amsterdam might turn out to be, but in some ways this is a pity. It’s possible that a Conley Woods or a Gavin Verhey will come up with an utterly broken deck, but, were I to be a betting man, I wouldn’t now look beyond four groups of people:

LSV, Paulo, Brad Nelson, David Ochoa, Matt Sperling, Josh Utter-Leyton, and crew.
Guillaumes Matignon and Wafo-Tapa, the Ruels, Manuel Bucher, and crew.
Patrick Chapin, Ben Rubin, Brian Kibler, Gabriel Nassif, and crew.
Zvi Mowshowitz, Gaudenis Vidugiris, Sam Black, and crew.

Of course, these groups may ebb and flow. It’s by no means certain that Nassif will be part of that test group, and Zvi is apparently not planning on playing Amsterdam, which might curtail his testing. That said, it seems to me overwhelmingly likely that the winner will come from one of these insular, star-studded testing groups, with relatively little hope for outsiders. I accept that a line about ‘Someone Japanese, and crew’ is missing from this list, but things have not been going well for Japan for some time on the deck innovation front. Perhaps that’s a discussion for another time.

In any case, I’m very excited by the changes to Extended. I love that it opens up the format to more people. I love that players have a virgin stretch of deckbuilding sand to explore. I do appreciate that there are going to be losers as well as winners in this exchange, and accept that anyone who spent last week buying an Extended collection featuring Ravnica, Kamigawa, and Mirrodin Block is going to be feeling pretty sore.

Nonetheless, I believe this is, at least, a nice shakeup to a format that was becoming awkward, and I can’t wait to see how it develops between here and Amsterdam.

Finally, I want to thank those of you who took the time to respond to the discussion about theft at tournaments last week. I highly recommend checking out the forums, since there were a lot of neat tips for keeping things safe. So, again, thanks.

As ever, thanks for reading.