Having played in the degenerate sandbox for some time, I hope my experience can provide some insight into the remaining weeks of the current Extended season. This article is going to review a few match-ups of the best decks in the Extended, discuss the metagame, some sideboarding theory, and some analysis of what I think people should take to the PTQs.
I was looking forward to Extended Season, perhaps breaking out some old favorite from last year, or a build that did well at Worlds. New Orleans changed all that. I’m going to enjoy this Holiday treat that ends January 1st and I hope you will too. People have complained loudly about the format, and now they have their wish. Take advantage of the opportunity to play with some disgusting decks in a competitive environment before the bannings take effect.
As soon as the New Orleans data started rolling in, I de-sleeved all but two of my Type One decks to make room for a half-dozen Extended decks. Here are my thoughts. The focus of this pair of articles is going to center around the Twiddle-Desire deck, but will speak generally about the metagame, various matchups, card choices, and strategy generally.
This is going to be one of the most attractive decks for people to play in the PTQs, but given its nature, I think it is one that is unlikely to put many people into top 8s. That doesn’t reflect my opinion on the power of the deck, but it’s more of a reflection on factors which seem to make this deck a weaker choice than other decks. Before I discuss potential changes, let me provide an overview of the deck.
Designed by Tsuyoshi Fujita
Played by Osamu Fujita, Tsuyoshi Fujita, and Tsutomo Yamada
4 Ancient Tomb
2 City of Traitors
4 Saprazzan Skerry
4 Seat of the Synod
Artifact Mana: 11 (what is this, Type One?)
4 Chrome Mox
4 Grim Monolith
3 Gilded Lotus
Setting Up the Combo:
4 Diminishing Returns
2 Mystical Tutor
2 Trade Secrets
3 Burst of Energy
4 Dream’s Grip
4 Mind’s Desire
2 Tendrils of Agony
2 Baleful Stare
3 Chain of Vapor
4 Defense Grid
1 Platinum Angel
2 Rushing River
1 Tendrils of Agony
2 Thirst for Knowledge
Let’s take a more in depth look at how it operates. After that I’ll discuss some of the more advanced issues with this deck.
The Core Combo
The key card to this deck is Mind’s Desire. You have to realize immediately that this card, when used, is not the kind of card that will ever be used fairly. It’s not a”balanced” card that people play in”interactive” decks. It’s not a card you use to draw a few cards. It’s a card you use to overwhelm your opponent with brokenness, or a card that just fizzles.
The goal of the deck is to essentially build up to a single Desire for five or more, from which point you have enough steam to simply win. How? I’ll explain.
The essential idea is to get a Gilded Lotus into play (ideally through Tinker), and then you use your Twiddle effects to generate mana through the Lotus and then play Mind’s Desire, or other business cards like Diminishing Returns (with the hope of drawing more Twiddle effects and Desires). Every card in the deck is built around combo’ing (hopefully with Desire), and facilitates playing as many spells as possible, while simultaneously generating as much mana as possible. All the acceleration (Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors, Saprazzan Skerry, Chrome Mox, and even Seat of the Synod) is included with this in mind.
Make no mistake, though: Grim Monolith pales in comparison to how important Gilded Lotus is. One use of Grim Monolith with this deck is to basically”Tinker” – by that I mean that just like Tinker, it helps cast a Turn 2 Gilded Lotus (after Turn 1 Ancient Tomb, Grim Monolith, Turn 2, Tap Monolith and Tomb to play Lotus). Beyond that, Grim Monolith functions as a Tinker sacrifice target, a way to get the sixth mana for Desire, or simply to up the Storm count. The Seat of the Synod enables an early Tinker (since it is an artifact) off of a mere Ancient Tomb/City of Traitors, plus the Seat itself.
The reason you can win off a Desire that might seem so small, is that every spell becomes immediately useful. Each Twiddle effect off of a Desire essentially becomes a Black Lotus by giving you three more mana off of your Gilded Lotus. Then any business spell you draw off a Desire’d draw spell you are able to cast with your Twiddle mana. So let’s say you play a Mind’s Desire for five and you see: Meditate, Ancient Tomb, Saprazzan Skerry, Seat of the Synod, and Burst of Energy. In play you have Gilded Lotus, Ancient Tomb, Saprazzan Skerry with one counter, and a Chrome Mox.
Your Burst of Energy, which you cast for free, allows you to get three free mana. You use it to untap the Lotus and now you can Meditate (which is free since it was cast off the Desire) into some goodies – hopefully more Twiddle effects and another Desire, from which you continue to build up the storm count and your options until Tendrils rears its ugly head.
As a cute aside, it is worth noting that this deck can combo out on turn 1 with a range of possible cards that only need include: Chrome Mox and Tinker. On Turn 1 you can drop either Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors with Chrome Mox. Then you Tinker the Chrome Mox into Gilded Lotus. You start generating mana with the Gilded Lotus using one, two or three twiddle effects to cast a Mind’s Desire (or if you only have one twiddle, Diminishing Returns with one mana floating). From there you can simply go off. In many ways a Returns with four mana floating is preferable than a Desire in that scenario.
While Tinker is at the core of getting the combo going, you will sometimes curse yourself for drawing this card instead of some key business spell. After you get your first Gilded Lotus, this card becomes subsidiary card. Primarily it is then a) Chrome Mox imprint target, and b) a means to up the storm count by tinkering into more Gilded Lotus. Although I would caution against playing Tinker just to up the storm count. In a few scenarios this is an obvious mistake.
First, if you know you are going to play a Meditate or Trade Secrets, you may want that Tinker in your hand to imprint onto a Chrome Mox. Second, there are some narrow situations in which Tinkering into all your Gilded Lotuses is a mistake. If you cast a Diminishing Returns and you have two Gilded Lotuses in play – both tapped, and you draw into a Tinker, multiple Bursts of Energy and your last Gilded Lotus, but you have no white mana floating, you’ll wish you had left your third Lotus in your library so you could Tinker it up and win.
You should never forget that Seat of the Synod is an excellent card to Tinker away, although if you are on the verge of playing some Diminishing Returns, Tinkering away a Chrome Mox is generally ideal so that you may draw more Chrome Moxen to continue your binge.
If you take Returns out of this deck, it really has a rough time surviving – it is simply the most efficient spell for what you get: seven new cards. You simply cannot play Diminshing Returns ASAP off a Skerry and an Ancient Tomb/City of Traitors on Turn 2. This card also requires a bit of set up – and is one of the best”business” spells in the deck. It costs merely one Blue more than Timetwister – that should indicate something about its power level.
If you Tinker the Lotus into play, and only have one Twiddle effect, playing a Returns (possibly instead of Desire because you are one mana short of Desire) is likely to leave you in a winnable position. But the better situation is having cast Returns when you simply do not have access to a Mind’s Desire, but you can leave multiple mana floating as you draw into seven new cards.
One thing that scares people about Diminishing Returns when they first see it, is that it removes the top ten cards of your library from game. I admit that’s scary – especially if, in the process of going off, you happen to need to cast a second Returns after having removed one of your two Tendrils of Agony, but your chances of losing that way are quite slim. The more usual way that the Returns can be harmful is when it removes multiple Desires from game, or a majority of your Twiddles. At that point your chance of drawing into the desired brokenness significantly decreases.
The Other Business Spells
Brainstorm is obviously a key card in this deck. Just as with the Type One Tendrils deck, Brainstorm does an excellent job of setting up the Turn 2 combo. The problem with Brainstorm, however, is that half of your Blue mana producing lands come into play tapped, thus making turn 1 Brainstorm more difficult. But, it’s just something to be aware of, not really to be concerned about.
Mystical Tutor is simply the spell that fetches you a needed business spell at instant speed. But it can also help you set up a Turn 2 Tinker. Since Mystical gets you whatever broken Blue spell you want, it’s really an excellent addition to the deck, given the low number of key business spells: Diminishing Returns and Mind’s Desire (and Tinker). Meditate and Trade Secrets are basically filler. They are strong off a Desire and can help keep the combo going once it’s started, but they can be as risky to play as Diminishing Returns under the right set of circumstances.
My understanding of why the Trade Secrets is included is so that you have a massive draw spell which does not give your opponent an extra turn. However, I’m not sold on the card over Meditate’s three mana and four cards. The benefit of not needing UU to cast Meditate is pretty substantial given how much colorless mana this deck operates on, and how it wants to save every Blue source for a really broken card.
Getting Good With This Deck
Some people will say that this is one of the more skill intensive decks in the format. I’m certainly willing to agree that this is the case. However, I also think that there are other decks that require even more skill to pilot successfully. I’m going to make a distinction that I believe exists, although it is difficult to explain convincingly. If you understand what I mean by the distinction I’m about to draw, then you’ll probably agree with me.
I think there is a distinction between decks that require a great amount of technical skill, and decks that require a great amount of experience, even though they might be less skill-oriented. Technical skill is being the computer – maximizing your card chances into the logically correct play. With this deck, I believe that even a very technically skilled player who plays it for the first few times, will not be playing it to its fullest potential.
There is more to this deck than just maximizing card interaction – you need to almost have a second sense about certain decisions that are extremely close. A technically excellent player can pick up this deck (almost anyone can) and win a lot with it – but in order to win the whole kit and caboodle, to really show the real power of this deck, you need to be at another level of play. There are two parts to this.
In my series on Long.dec in Vintage, I told everyone that they should not pick up the deck and play it the next day at a tournament – it is a deck that, in order to master, you really need at least a full week of preparation. Sure, you can win a tournament, but I think in order to win those incredibly tight games against the very best decks you need to be playing the deck at a higher level.
Once you get to the level where you have a second sense about the correct play, you’ll be well on your way to winning with this deck at a level that is very difficult to deal with. A lot of the key decisions in this deck involve timing. You need to figure out when to go off with maximum chance of succeeding. It’s rather easy to miscue with this deck (even if you are making technically correct decisions), unless you have a lot of experience with it – knowing what is likely to work and what is not, if you are likely to draw what you need, and what your chances of success are. Having a wealth of play experience with this deck to draw upon will be critical when making difficult decisions.
The second part is experience with other decks. When I was originally writing up this piece a few weeks ago, I had foolishly written that one reason to play this deck was that you wouldn’t have to really familiarize yourself with the rest of the metagame, if you proceeded on the assumption that you would be winning before you see most of your opponent’s deck. The original Sideboard inclusion of Baleful Stare seems to operate on that premise.
However, I now believe that the more familiar you are with the other decks – the more time you have given to actually playing with the other decks, the better you will be with this deck. The reason is simple. Speed is not everything.
As Zvi said, this deck is about probabilities. That means playing the deck to win as quickly as possible is not optimizing your chances, if you don’t have to. If your opponent isn’t going to affect your game plan next turn, then waiting a turn is certainly a good decision if you thereby increase your chance of winning. If you know how fast the other decks are and are familiar with their basic game plan, you’ll know how long you can wait before you go off. Ideally, you want to combo out the turn before they’d win.
I’d like to address a few more aspects of game play and re-emphasize some points I’ve already made. Try and view this deck as a plane on a runway. Once you’re off, you get a Bernoulli effect lifting you off the ground so that you get more lift than you had to work for. The trick is not getting stalled on the runway. That’s why Desire and Returns are so key to this deck and so much more important than Meditate: because each of them gives you access to a tremendous amount of resources.
The most difficult decision with this deck, then, is figuring out when to fly off the runway. Timing is absolutely critical. Do not think that you have to go off as soon as possible. While you may be able to, you may also stall out unnecessarily when waiting one turn would have cost you nothing. Hopefully, the rest of the article will provide some insights where simply listing when to go for it and when not to wouldn’t.
How To Mulligan
In Extended, just like Type One, mulliganing is an art. As matches get faster, you must rely less on the draw step and on library manipulation to optimize your hand. This is one of the reasons (as I will explain at the end of the article), that I feel consistency among the most powerful decks is so important. Fortunately, I feel that this deck is rather consistent in the spells it draws.
The nature of the deck is simply that the combination of spells it needs to get the”good” draw is rather fluid. While this deck isn’t the most redundant deck in the format, there is a certain level of redundancy because of the multiplicity of Twiddle effects, and high number of very solid business spells. Redundancy doesn’t mean consistent though. The spell base is surprisingly consistent because of the power of the business spells and the high number of key components. The consistency problems of this deck more frequently center around the mana.
Brainstorm is a great fixer. It helps smooth mana and optimize spells. Unfortunately, Brainstorm is not optimized in this deck either. The reason, quite frankly, is that one half of your Blue mana producing lands come into play tapped. This is made worse by the fact that you almost always want to lead with the Skerry unless you have something more broken, because you want to untap and be able to use it on the following turn – even if you have a Seat in hand. The alternative is to play a turn 1 Chrome Mox imprinting a Blue spell in order to cast the Brainstorm. But generally, you only want to do that when you a) are going to cast Tinker or an equally good spell, or b) are planning on going off and thus want to up your Storm count.
So, effective mulliganing has several layers. The first part is recognizing the difference between playing first and drawing. Just because you are trying to combo out, doesn’t mean that this is merely goldfishing. Post sideboard, the opponent may bring in cards that force you to pay attention. It seems to me that you are going to mulligan something in the range of an average of once every game and a half. If you are drawing, you can be slightly more aggressive in your mulliganing, because you are going to have access to one more card than you would otherwise.
The second key point, as alluded to above, is to make sure your mana isn’t crappy. This deck has really two mana requirements – and two stringent ones at that. The first is quantity and the second is quality. This deck needs to have a Blue mana source, while it also wants to have a high mana quantity. The single biggest factor leading to mulligans is the fact that this deck has only fourteen lands. Slightly under half of them do not even produce Blue – and it may well be that you just can’t keep a hand without a Blue source – something which is usually the case. I’d say that this accounts for a rather large percentage of my mulligans.
Secondly, you have to think long and hard before keeping a hand with just Seat of the Synod and Chrome Mox. This belies the fact that this deck really has only one spell that costs two: Grim Monolith. As such, this deck also needs quantity of mana; you can’t get away with a one mana hand unless you are confident in a Brainstorm. The one mana hand and the no land hand also account for a large remainder of my mulligans. Finally, although there are only two city of Traitors in this deck, it can and does come up that you might draw both. If that is the case, you need to think long and hard about whether you can keep such a hand. Additionally, if you draw a one land hand with a Chrome Mox, and that land is City of Traitors, be prepared to go off in the first two turns, otherwise, you should probably throw it back.
The good news is that this can mulligan more effectively than most – often because of the”refilling” power of Diminishing Returns and because the deck is so fast that Meditate and Trade Secrets are less likely to really give your opponent the game. A hand of five could easily be better than a hand of seven. Between all your potential hands in any given game of seven, six or five, chances are, one of them is the one you want to find. But knowing when to go for it depends, as I have described before, on knowing the match-up. Knowing what turn you are going to have to win by means everything. Taking in all the information – the matchup, how much your opponent has had to mulligan, and what your hand looks like is the equation that will determine if you can keep your hand. But the only way you can do this effectively is if you are familiar with the other decks.
Finally, despite incredible spell consistency, some hands are just too bad to keep – especially if you are in a tight matchup, you will likely want to mulligan from a relatively poor mix of seven to a much stronger mix of six, or even five. Having multiple Gilded Lotus as well as a Tinker in hand with no Brainstorm is not something I would consider as coming even close to an ideal hand.
Potential Maindeck Changes
One of the most common suggestions for altering the maindeck is the addition of Burning Wish. I’ve seen several ways of doing this. One is cutting one of the Meditates or Trade Secrets as well as both Tendrils for three Burning Wish. Another is cutting both Mystical Tutors and Tendrils for four Burning Wish. There are a few other possibilities. This suggestion seems good in theory and it’s not something you will recognize as bad immediately.
The net effect of Burning Wish is to slow the deck down unnecessarily. The key to this deck’s blood supply is already Gilded Lotus. Admittedly, the deck can win as it stands without Gilded Lotus by simply achieving a large Desire off of some Twiddled Skerries that funnel into more Desires or a punctual Tendrils. But this becomes an impossibility with Burning Wish. The deck becomes bottlenecked at Gilded Lotus. One answer is to replace some Seats with City of Brass, but this just makes the deck even worse, removing a key sacrificial lamb for Tinker.
Then at some point you have to ask: why Burning Wish in the first place? The worst reason, but perhaps the most common, is to eliminate the chance of removing both Tendrils with Diminishing Returns. If that’s really what your worried about, just add another Tendrils. But I don’t think that’s really necessary. Even if you have cast two Diminishing Returns, your chances of removing both Tendrils are pretty marginal. The main reason I tried it out was because I wanted an answer to Platinum Angel and Chalice of the Void set at one. I think a better answer, although equally unworthy, is to simply add two copies of Cunning Wish. The benefit of having a potential answer to Chalice at one or Platinum Angel is just not worth the cost to the deck. It’s better to just accept the fact that you lose to a game one Platinum Angel and move on.
Another reason that relying on Burning Wish even more than we already do is unhealthy is that it is already the biggest target for hate. A well timed Rack and Ruin in response to your first Twiddle can spell the death knell for this deck. All of the artifact hate that the entire metagame is going to be throwing at you, outside of Stifle, is going to be aimed at destroying the Lotus.
The second suggestion which I found intriguing was Scroll Rack. The idea is that a single copy of Scroll Rack would give you a mid-to-late game Tinker target besides another Lotus. The idea is that if you have a poor Desire or fresh Returns hand which has multiple Tinkers, you at least have a chance to continue to combo out. While good in theory, the problem with Scroll Rack was that it was an absolutely awful spell for the opening hand. Since this deck already has mulligan issues due to opening hand consistency, the bigger problem with this deck is getting off the runway – not stalling once you’re in the middle of it. Scroll Rack patches one problem, but creates an even bigger one.
Here is a representative game where a mana problem and problems caused by Scroll rack collide.
Twiddle Desire V. George W. Bosh
Steve’s Opening hand:
and Mind’s Desire.
As far as the core spells in this hand go, this hand is quite strong. As I explained in the mulligan section, this deck has mana issues that are basically unresolvable and which are exemplified by this hand – it’s a very strong hand except that it lacks colored mana. If I would be lucky enough to topdeck a Blue mana source, this hand would become definitely keepable, but the risk of doing that is too great.
This hand has the same problem as the first: mana problems. I shuffle it back in the hopes that a hand of five is stronger than this realizing that the risk increases that I get a hand worse than the first.
Scroll Rack (was 4th Meditate)
And so this hand is worse than my opening hand. This was one of the games where I was testing Scroll Rack.
I was testing against my roommate Chris Stevenson. His opening hand:
Bosh, Iron Golem,
City of Brass,
City of Traitors,
Thirst for Knowledge
Chris’ hand is quite good. He noted his hands before our games and only when I collated all the information did I actually get to see what he played. I’m posting it at the beginning of the games so you can figure out what he drew.
Ancient Tomb, tap and play Scroll Rack, Go.
City of Brass, tap it for Voltaic Key.
I draw Burst of Energy. Huzzah.
I tap Tomb, 16 life, Scroll Rack into:
Meditate, Brainstorm, Chrome Mox, Tinker
I put Returns and Twiddle on top.
Plays City of Traitors, tap both lands for Tangle Wire. There goes my plans for Tinker next turn.
Tap down, Draw, Go. At this point my Scroll Rack is basically something to tap down for Tangle Wire.
Tap down Wire, City of Brass, and Key leaving City of Traitors untapped. Draw. Tap City. Play Shivan Reef. Sac City, play Worker.
Steve: Use Scroll Rack on upkeep. Fourteen life. Draw. My hand is: Twiddle, Tinker, Meditate, Brainstorm, Chrome Mox, and Returns. The Scroll Rack has not helped dig me out of early game mana problems. I have not found any more mana.
Tap Worker revealing Grim, Worker, Bosh.
Tap City and use two colorless to Thirst for Knowledge. Discard Grim. Four colorless floating. Use Key to untap Worker. Tap Worker revealing Metalworker and Bosh. Tap the Reef to generate the eighth mana to drop Bosh.
I fail to draw a land so I scoop.
Admittedly, Scroll Rack could have found me a land, I just didn’t have a land in sight. One of the problems that this game illustrated is that Scroll Rack works best when you have a large hand. Often this deck will be operating in regions other than the hand, whether it be in the RFG pile because of a Desire, or because I mulliganed too low. Here is another sample game showing a problem with both suggested alternate cards.
I am playing First against the same deck as the previously featured game.
My Opening hand:
City of Traitors
Mind’s Desire, and
Once again, we have some serious mana problems. If had a Gilded Lotus in hand I would likely keep it though.
Burst of Energy,
This hand is almost a joke. Two off color spells which make the Chrome Mox harder to use. If the Burning Wish had been one of the Blue business spells, this would be a keepable hand. Anything that makes this deck need to mulligan more than it already does should raise red flags.
Hand of Five:
Seat of the Synod,
Recall I cut one Trade Secrets to test the Scroll Rack. The goal here is obvious – play the Returns as soon as possible. This kind of hand illustrates how effective mulliganing can be when you do not expect countermagic and you have a draw seven in hand.
I plop down a Skerry and pass the turn.
Chris plays a City of Brass and passes the turn back.
Steve: I draw a Chrome Mox, then tap the Skerry to play Scroll Rack. My concern is that if I play the Grim Monolith he’ll play a Tomb or a City and drop down Tangle Wire. Paying to use the Grim Monolith would mean losing my Skerry. At least with Scroll Rack it seems that I have a chance to draw into some more mana to maximize the use of my Returns. I drop a Seat and pass the turn.
Predictably, he drops City of Traitors and taps both lands to play Tangle Wire. On his end step I activate the Scroll Rack to reveal Chrome Mox, Twiddle, and another Seat of the Synod. Recall my hand was Chrome Mox, Returns, and Grim Monolith.
The problem, as I have stated before, is that I am constrained by the fact that I already mulliganed to five. Unlike Brainstorm, Scroll Rack doesn’t actually get me out of that problem because I don’t get to return to my library whatever card I want, but am forced to put back the cards in my original hand. This wouldn’t be a big problem if I knew what those cards were, but I don’t. I can’t Twiddle my Skerry on my upkeep to evade his Wire because there is only one counter on it.
I use the Scroll rack again on my upkeep to set up my hand. Then I tap down my remaining permanents. I play Chrome Mox imprinting Twiddle. Then I drop the second Seat of the Synod, tap the Seat and Mox for Grim Monolith and pass the turn with hope for a Returns next turn. The alternative course of action would be to play both Moxen, only imprinting one so that I would have a useless Mox and Scroll Rack to tap down next turn leaving up Seat time two, Skerry, and a good Mox to Returns with. The path I have chosen, however, allows me to tap down the Rack and one Seat and cast Returns with a colorless and a Blue floating. Every bit helps.
He taps down City of Brass and Tangle Wire. He taps the City of Traitors to cast Grim Monolith and casts Metalworker. It’s pretty obvious he is setting up for something sick. I have to make my move now anyway.
As planned I tap down a Seat and the Rack. I drew Returns, tap Skerry sacrificing it, the Seat, and Grim Monolith.
I Returns into:
City of Traitors,
Mystical Tutor and
How awful. One of the ironies is that it is precisely this situation in which Scroll Rack is supposed to be good. But if I hadn’t have tapped down the Scroll Rack, then I wouldn’t have been able to cast the Returns with a Blue up unless I drew another Seat or a Chrome Mox, but I already have three of those eight in play.
I decide not to play the Grim Monolith in the interests of maximizing a subsequent Desire. Nonetheless I play Skerry and eat two mana burn. I pass the turn.
Taps only Tangle Wire.
He taps both City of Brass and City of Traitors. He casts Thirst for Knowledge in what appears to be an attempt to maximize his Worker mana. He discards City of Brass and Ancient Tomb.
He taps the Worker and reveals: Chromatic Sphere, Lightning Greaves, Grim Monolith, Grim Monolith, another Metalworker, and Tangle Wire. He has twelve mana floating. He drops Sphere and blows it for Blue. Eleven mana floating. He then drops Tangle Wire and Lightning Greaves leaving six up. He uses the 5U and drops two Metalworkers. That’s pretty sad. If he had had any good business Spell, he could have sealed up the game by now.
Both Wires trigger on my upkeep – with one and four counters on it. My board is Scroll Rack, two Seats, Skerry (fresh), Chrome Mox, and a tapped Grim. On my upkeep I float all five mana. At this point I briefly flirt with the idea of casting Mystical Tutor. If I Mystical and then Scroll Rack I could potentially go off if I get a Chrome Mox, but that is risky. I decide to wait one turn on the Mystical since his Wires will go down to three and zero, and I need the Mystical to up my Storm count. One other idea that floats through my head is using the Twiddle on a Skerry – but I don’t have enough mana to untap the Monolith, use the Twiddle on the Skerry, and play Mystical. Instead I decide to use Scroll Rack and then let the Wires resolve and untap the Grim Monolith. Since I have one mana floating, I tap the Grim Monolith floating four, and use it to untap the Monolith. I draw and then play another Skerry.
I pass the turn.
He taps three permanents, including the Tangle Wires. He draws Pentavus, because he reveals it and two Grims and taps a City to play the Pentavus. He moves Greaves to the Pentavus and swings for seven.
On my upkeep I tap down the Mox and both Seats to Tangle Wire. I tap Skerry, and Scroll Rack into the good cards that I put on top, putting back the chaff. I use the remaining Blue to Mystical into Tinker. I draw Tinker and play an Ancient Tomb. I tap the Tomb and the Skerry floating UU2. I Tinker away the dead Chrome Mox to find Gilded Lotus. I tap the Lotus for UUU giving me UUUU. I tap the Grim Monolith giving me UUUU3. I twiddle the Lotus leaving UUU3. I play a Grim Monolith and tap it giving me UUU4. I cast the Mind’s Desire for five with U floating and an untapped Gilded Lotus.
My Desire reveals:
Burst of Energy,
and Ancient Tomb.
I play Grim. I tap my Lotus for UUU giving me UUUU. I then Burst the Lotus upping the Storm Count to 7. I play Meditate into:
And Mind’s Desire.
At this point the rest of the game is a formality. I tap the Grim giving me UUUU3. After I play the Mox, Mystical, and Brainstorm, I can cast Desire for twelve which then reveals more Desires and a Tendrils.
Only six turns, but a world of complexity. Its worth noting, if you review the game, that Scroll Rack didn’t actually help me see anything that I wouldn’t have already seen by the relevant point in time – in other words, it functioned almost exclusively a permanent to tap down to Tangle Wire. Arguably, the Meditate would have been much better. I’ll let you judge for yourself how effective you thought Scroll Rack was – but my conclusion is that it is simply not good enough, and certainly no better than Meditate. To a certain extent, I only won that game because Chris didn’t find a good business spell until it was too late despite casting Thirst of Knowledge and using multiple Tangle Wires. If I had Meditate instead of Scroll Rack, I would have cast Meditate on his end step after he cast Tangle Wire, and I would had a potentially stronger game – but certainly no worse than what I had with the Scroll Rack.
In the end, I think the Japanese maindeck is about as good as it gets. Any change needs to be very carefully tested and weighed.
The other component to doing well with this deck is:
Constructing An Optimal Sideboard
However, I’ll defer that to next time, when I talk more broadly about the Extended metagame and thoughts on Sideboarding. For the moment, here are some games that illustrate some of the principles I’ve discussed so far. In the process, I’ll be discussing the key plays in these matchups.
Feature Game Three
Desire v. Belcher
Here’s a sample game illustrating the way in which Brainstorm can transform a hand into a winner. As discussed early, Brainstorm is a great fixer, but it is limited in this deck by the lack of Blue producing mana sources which are available on Turn 1. Here is a combination of cards that really demonstrates how powerful Brainstorm can be.
Seat of the Synod,
Seat of the Synod
And Dream’s Grip
I’m playing first.
I drop a Seat and pass the turn.
Chris plays Ancient Tomb and taps it for Talisman of Dominance, which he then taps for Brainstorm. On his end step I brainstorm into Tinker, Mind’s Desire, and Grim Monolith! I waited until his end step because he has Duress in the maindeck. This is a great example of a very strong Brainstorm. I put back Tomb and Seat.
I play Ancient Tomb, tap it for Grim Monolith. I tap that Grim for another Grim. I then tap it and the Seat for Tinker fetching out Gilded Lotus. I then Grip the Lotus. At this point I have 2UUUUU floating and I play Desire for five. That Desire finds more brokenness which eventually reveals a Tendrils.
I admit it’s risky to keep a possibly sub-optimal hand because of a Brainstorm, this is representative of the types of hands you can keep. The reason is simple: You have plenty of mana – both quality and quantity. That means whatever you get is usable, we are just fishing for spells, not mana. And if you recall the discussion on mulliganing, the biggest problem with this deck is the mana base. Here is an example of a hand Brainstorm failed because I lacked good mana:
Feature Game Four
In this match, we are back to the Bosh match again.
Chris is playing first and mulligans to six.
Here are my hands:
And Dream’s Grip.
I decide not to risk this hand although it could pan out. I pitch it back and see:
Burst of Energy,
Burst of Energy,
Ach. Hans, where is my mana?
Chris plays Shivan Reef, and taps it for Goblin Welder.
I draw Dream’s Grip. I play Chrome Mox imprinting Meditate and cast Brainstorm. Unfortunately, I have no lands. I keep a Diminishing Returns and pass the turn.
At this point, we know I have at least 2 turns before I see another land.
Draws. He drops City of Brass and taps both lands for Lightning Greaves. He then equips the Welder and passes the turn.
On my upkeep I cast Mystical Tutor for Brainstorm which I draw. I pass the turn.
Chris apparently has nothing because all he does is swing with a Goblin Welder.
The shuffling with Mystical was key because I draw Seat of the Synod. I brainstorm into Ancient Tomb and two Diminishing Returns. I play Tomb and pass the turn.
Chris: Draws a card, swings for one, and passes the turn.
Steve: I draw a Diminshing Returns I had put on top of my library. I drop Seat but decline to play the Returns because it seems unlikely to get me anything since I have already played a land and I do no have a Gilded Lotus in play.
I’m doing nothing exciting, but neither is Chris, until now.
He draws and plays Great Furnace. He debates what to play but decides on casting Thirst of Knowledge, and discards Platinum Angel, which he welds into play. He Greaves it and swings. The only reason I continue to play is because I happen to have had maindeck Burning Wishes at the time.
Steve: I cast Diminishing Returns.
And Burning Wish.
I play Tomb, Monolith and sadly pass the turn.
Chris now has a full grip and an Angel in play – it doesn’t get much better.
He drops City of Traitors, and plays Metalworker. He moves Greaves to Worker, and taps Worker revealing Monolith and Sphere. He taps City of Brass for Blue, Thirst. He discards Gilded Lotus. He then plays Tangle Wire and moves Greaves to Welder and swings with Angel and Welder.
I’m at eleven life.
On my upkeep I Meditate in response to Tangle Wire on the Stack. Unfortunately, I draw nothing of use. Since he has two turns and six power on the table, that’s game. I simply could not recover from the awful mana situation before the Bosh deck sealed the deal.
So far, I’ve shown two extreme scenarios in which Brainstorm was great. In one situation, I had plenty of mana, but needed some more spells, and in the other I needed mana but had plenty of spells. In the following game, the hand wasn’t so clear cut.
Feature Game Five:
Desire v. Kai’s Tinker
Seat of the Synod,
I am playing first.
I play Seat and pass the turn.
Ancient Tomb -> Grim Monolith -> Worker. This is one of the more broken Tinker starts, presuming he has the stuff to follow it up with.
On his end step I Brainstorm into: Ancient Tomb, Brainstorm, and Chrome Mox. I took a large risk and it paid off. Unfortunately, I lost a turn due to the hand. If I had had the Tomb I could have had Turn 1 Monolith, Turn 2 Gilded Lotus and Returns. Now I’m looking at Turn 2 Gilded Lotus but insufficient mana to do anything.
I play Chrome Mox, Ancient Tomb, Grim, and Gilded Lotus (I imprinted Brainstorm on the Mox) keeping a desire and returns in hand.
Chris. He reveals Myr Incubator, Tangle Wire, Thran Dynamo, and Mindslaver. For eight mana. With the Ancient Tomb he drops he uses ten mana and Slaves me.
This hand was saved by Brainstorm – but the cost was a loss of tempo. Generally, that cost should be marginal, but Chris had a really fast start which he managed to take advantage of with a Mindslaver in hand. But more importantly, he slaved me just as I was setting myself up. Against most scenarios, that Brainstorm would have been great.
Feature Game Six:
Desire v. Bosh
My Opening hand was:
Burning Wish (still in the deck at this point),
And Mind’s Desire
It’s a mulligan hand but I was curious how this hand might play out for testing purposes, so I kept.
Chris is playing first.
He drops an Ancient Tomb, taps it for Grim Monolith, which is tapped for Voltaic Key. He then untaps the Grim and taps it to drop a Masticore. Interesting. I have a lot of pain in my hand, but he has me on a rather slow clock.
I drop a Skerry and pass the turn,
Chris discard Pentavus to ‘Core. He draws and swings.
I’m at sixteen. Chris is at eighteen.
He uses the Key to untap the Monolith and generate sufficient mana to drop a Tangle Wire.
Now we have a real test: When I know the point at which I must when, but which is turn 4 at the earliest, can I do it with a sub-optimal hand?
Steve: I draw and play a Tomb and pass the turn.
Chris: Discards Thirst for Knowledge on his upkeep to feed Masticore. Tangle Wire now has three counters.
He draws and swings with Core taking me to twelve.
Chris is using his resources to keep the Masticore going so I don’t feel as if there are going to be any surprises here. His Tangle Wire is keeping everything else locked down.
I draw and drop another skerry and pass the turn.
Chris: Discards Voltaic Key. He beats down for four. I’m at eight.
Now I’m down to the Wire. I could wait one more turn, but I’d like to win before actually going to two life. It’s also less risky because I’m going to have a decent sized Desire.
I tap a Skerry to generate two Blue. I then tap down both the Tomb and the Skerry and then Twiddle both Skerries after the Tangle Wire has resolved. I draw and then Tap both Skerries for UUUU. I drop another Tomb and tap it for two giving me a total of UUUU2. I drop Gilded Lotus leaving U up. I tap the Lotus and Grip the Lotus. I then tap the Lotus for UUU giving me a total of six mana. I then Tinker the Lotus for another Lotus simply to up the storm count to five so that my Desire reveals six spells. My Desire fuels extreme brokenness and I win.
The point of this game was to illustrate that this deck is so fast, that under certain conditions, a sub-optimal hand can be a winner because of the lack of speed of an opponents threats. Next, we’ll take a closer look at this Extended.
Just as an informational notice, for anyone who is interested, The Soldiery in Columbus, Ohio is sponsoring a Type One tournament on December 28th. Soldiery Inc – Northwest
4256 North High Street, Columbus, OH 43214
First place is an unlimited Mox Sapphire with an English Mana Drain for second place. There will be some cool door prizes such as Dual Lands and other stuff. Proxies will be allowed and it will start at noon. It will be swiss with a cut to top 8. December 28th come play in Columbus, Ohio. The entry fee is $15.