Ten Extended Decks to Beat #5: Sligh
The Extended variant of Sligh can be traced back to the then-Standard legal Deadguy Red variant run by the "King of Beatdown," David Price. The deck translated well to the Extended format, and was one of the few non-Academy decks that had a chance of winning when Tolarian Academy and Time Spiral were dominating the environment.
After the bannings of Academy and Time Spiral, Lackey-Sligh – a Sligh variant that ran Goblin Lackey, several large undercosted Goblins and lots of burn – began to appear and having considerable success in the qualifier circuit.
However, Sligh appeared to be a dead archetype after PT-Chicago and the success of Bob Maher’s Oath of Druids deck. Against the recursive power of the Oath of Druids, a first turn Jackal Pup – normally a very good play – could potentially lead to an opponent getting out a free Morphling or some other monster that Sligh can’t deal with. Red has no way to get rid of the Oath, so with this deck in ascendancy, Sligh’s days appeared over.
But a new variant began popping up in response to the success of Maher-Oath. This variant ran red’s heavy-hitting celerity creatures, Ball Lightning and Viashino Sandstalker, to get around the effects of the Oath of Druids, and it punished decks depending upon non-basics with Wasteland and the powerful Price of Progress.
Calling this current Extended version "Sligh" is really a misnomer, since it doesn’t truly follow the concept of the "mana curve" that is synonymous with Sligh. More accurately, it should be called "Pooh Burn" or "Seth Burn," the original monikers given to the deck when it first started appearing. But wrong or not, just about any mono-red deck is generally called "Sligh" these days, and who am I to argue with common consensus?
As played by Kurt Burghner at the Gateway Masters tournament
3x Cursed Scroll
3x Price of Progress
4x Jackal Pup
4x Mogg Fanatic
2x Ball Lightning
2x Viashino Sandstalker
2x Seal of Fire
2x Hammer of Bogardan
1x Ghitu Encampment
3x Rishadan Port
3x Bottle Gnomes
1x Dwarven Miner
Burghner’s version is more teched out to deal with non-basics, packing additional kill in the form of Dwarven Miner and Ruination. Bottle Gnomes the best thing Sligh has to defend itself against Trix. The deck runs the minimal four Pyroblasts against blue and two Anarchys against white.
The addition of Rishadan Port to the mix has the potential to slow the deck down, but also has the same effect of slowing an opponent down one or two turns – and to a burn deck like Sligh, that extra turn can translate into an extra two, four, or even twelve points of damage.
Note how Burghner’s deck lacks anything in the two-casting-cost slot outside of Price of Progress, which would never be cast on turn two. However, if you consider the Port a two-drop, you see how it fits the Sligh mana curve concept elegantly. A turn-one Jackal Pup, followed by a turn-two Port and turn-three Wasteland will effectively disrupt the early game of an opponent while establishing early beats.
Deck MVP: Without doubt, Price of Progress. This is usually the finisher, capable of dealing eight to fourteen points of damage by turn seven – assuming the game makes it that far.
Strongest against: Sligh has lots of hate for mono-blue decks, being able to not only overwhelm it by pure speed but packing Pyroblast, Boil and even Scald in the sideboard. Stasis hates Scald. Really it does. And anything packing lots of non-basics is generally not going to like playing against this deck.
Weakest against: Generally poor versus most combo decks, depending on the ability to burn an opponent out before they get the pieces of the combo in place, but there are exceptions, as it plays decently versus Trix. Stompy and Secret Force can also present a difficult matchup.
In My Own Humble Opinion: Sligh did not show well at the Masters tournaments, run by only Kurt Burghner, and he did not get out of the first round. Once again, mono-red burn seems to have fallen out of favor since many decks are packing answers for it.
Sligh decks are like cockroaches; you can never quite kill them off completely before they come back in one form or another. The metagame seems to have drifted away from Sligh’s strengths; however, if we see the Invasion "dual" lands cropping up in dual-color Extended decks, this Price of Progress-powered deck may move back to the fore of Extended decks.
Ten Extended Decks to Beat #6: Secret Force
Jamie Wakefield, patron saint of janky Magic decks, can be credited with this offbeat green deck. Constructed seemingly to only give him a reason to play "The Best Fatty Ever Printed," Verdant Force, it’s actually gone on to become a very respected deck that always pops up during Extended season to capture one or two qualifiers.
While the deck lives to bring out the saproling-oozing Verdant Force, closer examination shows that it’s built like a green version of Maher Oath, using the green "tutor" in the environment: Natural Order. While Natural Order costs you card advantage, being a two-for-one card, anything that lets you replace a Llanowar Elf for a Verdant Force can’t be all bad. Jamie’s original version was more oriented towards beatdown, with multiple copies of Verdant Force, Spike Weaver and Spike Feeder. Later versions of Secret Force have lowered the count (or eliminated the Spikes entirely) in favor of other creatures.
Secret Force can always be counted on for one thing: mana and lots of it. From mana elves to Gaea’s Cradle to Wall of Roots, Secret Force can generate an obscene amount of mana early, capable of actually casting a Verdant Force by turn three! That’s not just sick – it’s sick and wrong. Against that kind of early onslaught, decks that have no defense will roll over and play dead very early.
As played by Trevor Blackwell at the Gateway Masters Tournament
1x Lumbering Satyr
1x Verdant Force
4x Priest of Titania
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Quirion Ranger
2x Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
4x Deranged Hermit
3x Elvish Lyrist
4x Plow Under
4x Wall of Roots
4x Natural Order
1x Skyshroud Poacher
3 Gaea’s Cradle
1x Uktabi Orangutan
3x Emerald Charm
3x Tranquil Grove
2x Null Rod
Trevor’s version is very teched out compared to some of Jamie’s earlier builds. The fat beats come from several angles, including Deranged Hermit squirrel rushes, Verdant Force saproling overruns, the permanent Hurricane effect of the Squallmonger, and an element of control in Plow Under. With the fast mana this deck generates, playing out big threats is not a problem. The Quirion Rangers are anti-Stasis tech that almost any deck that runs green is packing these days.
The sideboard is filled with the best sideboard available to mono-green against the rest of the Extended field, which quite honestly is a little weak. Choke is a powerful card, especially when cast on turn two, but it’s a must-counter for any blue mage. Emerald Charm and Tranquil Grove are excellent choices in an enchantment heavy field, but the deck has no answer for the bane of mono-green: Perish. Fortunately, the metagame seems to be going against the mono-black decks that would pack Perish, so perhaps Secret Force will be a good metagame call after all.
Gotta go with the Natural Order. Anything that lets you trade an Elf for a 7/7 fatty is good in my book.
Stompy can get out-stomped by Secret Force, and Sligh absolutely hates this deck, filled with creatures that are far out of range of spot removal like Incinerate and Shock. Rush decks are usually out-rushed by SF.
Combo decks can usually handle Secret Force fairly well, and mono-blue will win unless there is an active Choke on the board. If Secret Force can play a turn two Choke, however, it will almost always beat mono-blue.
In My Own Humble Opinion:
Secret Force will always pop up here and there at qualifiers, even though it can be considered just this side of "rogue" these days. But it’s almost always a given that someone will win with a PTQ with Secret Force during the Extended season, and this round should be no different.