Sullivan Library – Shadowmoor and Extended

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Friday, April 25th – With Pro Tour: Hollywood on the horizon, Pro-level thoughts on Standard continue to be well guarded. Of course, with a new set in the mix, there’s plenty more Constructed Magic available. Today, Adrian Sullivan examines the Shadowmoor offerings in an Extended context, and delivers his personal Top 5 Shadowmoor cards for Extended play.

It’s well known that I am a big fan of Extended. At least, it’s well known among my friends and old-school collaborators. As things get closer and closer to Hollywood, I become less and less comfortable with specifically talking all too much about Standard, and so I turn to other topics. I had a particularly interesting Two-Headed Giant article to write, but everyone tells me that no one really cares about Two-Headed Giant. This begs the question, then, what do people care about? Just so long as it isn’t Standard (at least until after the Pro Tour), you should give me some article suggestions in the forums. I know that I’ll be excitedly looking forward to your thoughts on topics. In the meantime, I thought I’d go back to that old love of mine, Extended.

One of the things that I’ve always loved about Extended is the sheer vastness of the card pool. In many ways, Extended has often reminded me of really old school Type 1, back before they called it Vintage (or even Classic). You’d see decks that might be able to do some absurd things, but they weren’t yet over the top. I remember watching a Force of Nature with doubleSpirit Link on it attacking for the win in the Top 8 of some medium-sized event or other. It certainly wasn’t the height of technology, but it managed to work because it was powered together by the glue of Moxen and such. Deckbuilding hadn’t yet evolved to the hive-mind space that it is now. But even the hive-mind of the Internet still fails to find potent decks because the space is so big. You might think that something akin to Tallowisping for profit was the equivalent of an enchanted Force, but the sheer power of the cards individually, and in their interactions is enough to make it work. There is still room for a crazy amount of creativity.

In that way, Extended is also a lot like Invasion Block Constructed. Here you have a format where pretty much anything could be competitive, so long as the instincts and theory behind it were sound. With mana that let you do nearly anything, and a fairly sizable proportion of potent cards, the format could not easily be reduced to a solitary deck that was the only one to play. Certainly, there were decks that were primo, but at one Grand Prix, I still remember seeing someone playing Adam Jansen’s Mono-Red deck with a clear shot at the money. And this in a format that rewarded Gold cards and access to Domain.

So, with each set, there is a small cadre of cards which join the ranks of potent Extended cards. Some, by their nature, step into decks quite immediately, and others serve merely as foils for decks. Rarely, a card can actually create new potential archetypes (Garruk for Death Cloud, for example). Shadowmoor seems to be an interesting animal in that way. Some people seem to think there is nothing worth seeing here… move along. Others view it as packed full of goodies.

Here are the cards that I think you should care about if you play Extended. Enjoy!

Greater Auramancy — Here is a card that immediately makes me think of Mike Hron. Mike, for those of you who don’t know, is in love with Enchantress decks. His first Constructed Pro Tour, he played Squee-bind, but you can believe it that he kept trying out his Enchantress deck. For a deck that might be running one of the two Hronish Enchantresses (Enchantress’s Presence and Yavimaya Enchantress), Greater Auramancy might conceivably make a splash. After Pernicious Deed rotates out, the Greater Auramancy might also be a way to help turn your classic Enchantress (you know, the Verduran one) into a kind of Argothian Enchantress, with the barest bit of help.

Inquisitor’s Snare — This is simply a potential sideboard card for Gun/Boros/Zoo style decks. Not only can it efficiently deal with a, say, Countryside Crusher gone amok, but it can also help smack around an opposing Tarmogoyf once you’ve gang-blocked it. Not flashy, but a potential tool. Note, that this doesn’t cause the massive life swing that a Condemn can give, which can be very important for these archetypes.

Prison Term — I’m not 100% sure, but I imagine that this might end up being a very valuable potential control spell once the rotation hits Extended. We’ll see.

Runed Halo — In a sense, this is pseudo-removal. Extended decks are sometimes plagued by a great huge honking weakness: they have few paths. For Next and Previous Level Blue, a Runed Halo on a Tarmogoyf can provide an incredible amount of time in which you are safe. Merely countering things that attack it (or laying a Greater Auramancy) might win you the game.

Advice from the Fae — A lot of people might forget that during the era of Necro, Ancestral Memories was a card that won a few PTQs. Advice from the Fae, if you have the creature advantage, is Ancestral Memories, if not better. Of course, the old-school card could help you dig for Force of Will. I’m not sure what you might need to dig for with Advice from the Fae, but it is still worth remembering in your brainstorm list.

Cursecatcher — A kind of Force Spike/Disrupt on legs, the Cursecatcher can actually come down incredibly fast, and has a few other nice traits to help out as well. It’s a Merfolk, which is nice for a one-drop. It’s also a Wizard, so he helps out Kai, potentially. This card is only really valuable if there are a lot of non-creatures to think about, but Extended has traditionally had a lot of Instants and Sorceries to worry about…

Savor the Moment — I don’t like this card. There. I’ve said it. That said, it is possible that this might help enable some kind of combo deck.

Dusk Urchins — This card reminds me of a (temporarily) bigger Phyrexian Rager. It can easily net you more cards, and so gets worth noting, where I think the Rager would not.

Faerie Macabre — Wow. This card sure is a kick to the teeth of a lot of graveyard decks. Having no mana activation and being a total surprise makes it very worth taking note of as a sideboard card.

Flame Javelin — Not only can the Javelin easily dodge Counterbalance, but it can pump out a serious amount of damage. While clearly not as economical as a splash, it does have the nice ability to actually hit a man (unlike Flames of the Blood Hand) and not hurt you (like Char). This one might become a serious contender in decks like the Burn deck that became popular in the middle of the recent Extended season.

Farhaven Elf — This card seems like it would be an easy fit into the Elf-Opposition decks that would occasionally show up at PTQs.

Augury Adept — Essentially an Ophidian with bonuses, the weakness of the Adept is that two power. Some decks might be able to find a way to overcome that, with perhaps an old-school MiViLite Tempo-blue build (Venser that! Sower that!) as the means to get the Adept through. By that same token, Finkel doesn’t see much play, and he’s built in with fear.

Enchanted Evening — Making everything an Enchantment has immediate repercussions in Extended. For a short time, at least, Pernicious Deed can go a little crazy. But there are other exploitations beyond that. Enchanted Evening decks have shown up all over the place in forum posts, but they largely involve recreating Jokulhaups. Seems fine…

Puresight Merrow — With such an incredibly cheap untap ability for a (potentially) Blue Merfolk, it seems like an easy inclusion in Opposition, able to make every mana into an Icy Manipulator.

Swans of Bryn Argoll — While incredibly dangerous, the Swans also represent another opportunity for combo-fodder. Chain of Plasma is the easy, crazy combo. Skred and Seismic Assault have been others. I’m still somewhat shocked that this card exists.

Oona, Queen of the Fae — Oona is an incredibly potent potential replacement for Meloku. Meloku’s ability can be better at times: it doesn’t necessarily really cost mana, it is guaranteed to work, and Meloku actually can get to work a whole turn sooner. Oona, on the other hand, doesn’t stunt you when you massively activate it, and it is a much larger body. Killing a Meloku would often put a player at a choice: semi-Upheaval myself for profit? Oona, rather, just says, “Do I have anything better to do?”

Sygg, River Cutthroat — Sygg is an interesting card. Potentially, in a deck capable of putting out the damage, Sygg can let you draw two additional cards a turn. Sygg doesn’t care when you damaged them. Just that it happened that turn. This can make Sygg potentially more powerful as a card advantage card than Bob Maher, the Dark Confidant, himself. That’s worth noting.

Demigod of Revenge — Unlike in Standard, it actually is somewhat reasonable to get the Demigods into your graveyard fairly without bending over backwards. As a result, the triggered ability of the Demigod comes into play, making this card not merely a potential Rorix/Tarox Bladewing, but a Bladewing the Risen as well.

Everlasting Torment — Wow, is this a potent sideboard card. It isn’t merely a complete shutdown of lifegain, but a complete knockout punch to a number of other cards as well. Moment’s Peace? Sorry. Circle of Protection? Nope. And that big creature you have? Well, it might take me a chump block and a burn spell to kill it, but that chump block sure did mostly neuter it anyway. Amazing.

Fulminator Mage — My only question here is will this guy replace Molten Rain or Pillage for some decks. With so many non-basics running around, he is bound to be played in decks.

Boartusk Liege — So, this big goblin protects your goblins from Engineered Plague? Sign me up!

Boggart Ram-Gang — While not a good contender for true goblin decks, this is absolutely a reasonable card for pure beatdown.

Guttural Response — While only representing a kind of semi-Red Elemental Blast, it is still valuable enough to look into. At one mana, this is far cheaper than nearly every important Blue instant you’d want to be stopping.

Manamorphose — For the short window that Mind’s Desire is still going to have enough tools to work with, this can be a great way to make the mana all the more solid.

Tattermunge Maniac — The real question to me is whether this will definitely see play in true Goblin decks. Initial playtesting of this guy is rather disappointing, in a way that makes it look to me almost like a weak Goblin Cadet. That said, Cadet got some mileage for a while…

Vexing Shusher — I’ve already written an article on just how good I think Shusher is, so I won’t belabor the point. I would just re-iterate that the real power of Shusher is that you don’t even need to spend the mana to get something out of it, and that while it can be killed, in the correct matchups it often must be killed (and are you really running nothing else that they feel like killing?). A true gem.

Fracturing Gust — This is an expensive little spell. Five mana is a lot. But, by that same token, unless they have out a Ravager, it will recoup you a ton of life, and even if they do, at least you’ll have decimated their board at an instant.

Wheel of Sun and Moon — Another great sideboard card against Dredge, and graveyard-based decks in general. As an Enchantment without activation, it becomes a part of that class of card that is slightly harder for most graveyard decks to deal with. While clearly, Dredge has its bouncy ways to handle it, the point is that they must.

Wilt-Leaf Liege — It starts out with the solid 4/4 for 4 stats that we all come to know and love, and is joined by Crusade-style pumping for your friends, with a bit of Dodecapod style power to top it off. Altogether, potentially good enough to make the cut, but it is competing against a whole heckuva lot of good cards at that slot.

The mana-fixing lands — Like in Standard, these lands are not going to be huge, but they will subtly impact what is possible to play. Expect to see a lot more ability to aggressively splash.

Overall, I think I end up on the optimistic side of the spectrum when it comes to my expectations of Shadowmoor. There are simply so many cards that I think could impact Extended. Again, in the end, many of them simply won’t make the cut, either the victim of the unfortunate circumstances of ascendant and descendant matchups in Extended, but they certainly could make it.

My top five predictions for Extended impact are the following:

5 — Vexing Shusher
4 — Faerie Macabre
3 — Oona, Queen of the Fae
2 — Everlasting Torment
1 — Swans of Bryn Argoll

Yes, largely a ton of sideboard cards, and a card that will be likely a singleton. But, then there are the Swans. I know that I expect Swan combo to be a big deal, for at least a little while.

I look forward to hearing everyone’s suggestions for articles for the coming weeks. Once Hollywood hits, I’m sure I’ll have a tale to tell.

See you next week!

Adrian Sullivan