That Deck Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad

Thursday, December 30th – Max McCall rips the current Extended deck choices to shreds, telling you why each popular archetype is terrible! Want to see deck weaknesses? Step on up!

Right now, people are frantically testing Extended, looking for every little edge they can get for the upcoming PTQs. New technology is discovered, then is obsolete two weeks later. Everyone is worrying about what deck they can play, not sure how Four-Color Control does against Omen after sideboarding, not sure what their local metagame is going to look like, not sure what deck will to let them cruise to victory.

Look. It doesn’t matter what deck you play at the PTQ. It doesn’t matter how well you think it’s positioned, or how good all of the matchups are. You’re not going to win the PTQ. You’re going to get mana-screwed in round four, then you’re going to make a small, subtle mistake in round six that ends up costing you the match.

Then you’re going to watch some drooling moron win the whole thing while making five mistakes per turn as his final practice before he goes off to try out for a position as an NFL punter. You’re going to go out to dinner, grumble about justice, and go home, already brewing for the next tournament.

This is why I think that all of those Facebook posts about which decks are good and questions on local message board talking about Worlds results are all pretty irrelevant. Yeah, that “four Leatherback Baloth, four Cryptic Command, nine Flooded Grove deck” is pretty bad, but so are all of these decks! They’re terrible! Who cares about which one you play?!

Four-Color Control has had some vocal advocates since Worlds. Its proponents cite Four-Color’s high win percentage at Worlds, point out that no one is playing Faeries, and claim that, really, the Scapeshift decks aren’t


Okay, look. The Americans built a deck that was all card drawing and removal spells. They took it to Worlds, where they obliterated all of the midrange piles of garbage that everyone else brought to the party.

But at

next PTQ, people are only going to play decks that made it through the crucible of Worlds. When not even Cedric Phillips is playing White Weenie, you shouldn’t count on your opponents sleeving up the white one-drops.

Now, yes, there are some aggro decks in the format. And when your deck is full of cards like Lightning Bolt, Wall of Omens, Day of Judgment, Cryptic Command, and Cruel Ultimatum, then it surely will be good at crushing anyone trying to interact via combat. However, there are a bunch of decks that interact

of combat, and Four-Color is incredibly ill-equipped to deal with them. The Prismatic Omen decks force Four-Color to be aggressive once Prismatic Omen is in play; otherwise, the Omen decks will just Lightning Bolt Four-Color out with Valakut going long.

The problem is that Four-Color isn’t capable of being aggressive in any matchup where it has to be the beatdown. About all Four-Color can do is try to set up Cruel Ultimatum or Identity Crisis. All of the decks that have inevitability over Four-Color are blue decks with Cryptic Command. Checkmate.

And this isn’t even touching on Four-Color’s lack of velocity. When most of your spells are removal spells with value, you need to be doing something that helps you maintain whatever advantage you’ve gotten — either by saving mana or going up a card. Four-Color uses the tempo-based removal spells to play lands that come into play tapped, which isn’t exactly generating value until you resolve Cruel Ultimatum a few turns later. Sure hope you draw those Esper Charms!

First off, these Faeries decks could all stand to add a land. I understand that the Faeries decks from Lorwyn Standard only played twenty-five lands, but those decks also had a few copies of Peppersmoke and could filter with Broken Ambitions. Faeries has four Mutavaults and some Creeping Tar Pits. You’re not going to run out of things to do with your mana.

An alternative to adding a land might be to cut some of the Jace, the Mind Sculptors for Jace Beleren. If I suggested a green midrange deck with ten four-drops, I’d be laughed off of StarCityGames.com. Making all those four-drops blue doesn’t make the glaring hole in your mana curve go away.

Adding Jace Beleren would also go a long way towards fixing the other problem with Faeries: when Bitterblossom isn’t in play, the deck is sort of, well,

. Instead of trying to add more cantrips to try and find Bitterblossom (which is only really going to screw up your mana curve and
trick you into keeping bad hands), what about just configuring the deck such that you can legitimately play it like a control deck when you

have Bitterblossom on 2? With Jace Beleren and more two-mana ways to interact with your opponent, you can buy enough time to set up Mutavault into Mistbind Clique or even just find a Bitterblossom.

You can also probably stop putting Wall of Tanglecord in your sideboards now. People are moving away from Stag and more towards Volcanic Fallout. You can find better cards than Wall against the decks that are just trying to beat down.

(And three Cryptic Commands? Please stop with this.)

Honestly, the card Scapeshift is one of the worst cards in the deck. If you have Prismatic Omen and six lands and Scapeshift, you now have the opportunity to tap four mana and hope your opponent doesn’t do anything to your Omen in response. Gerry, prescient master that he is, cut his Scapeshifts down to one, although I’m not sure how I feel about getting inbred with Leyline of Sanctity.

Scapeshift, essentially, is a card that kills your opponent immediately once you’ve assembled Omen plus lands. That might be useful in a format where there are a lot of beatdown or combo decks that you need to race against… but Scapeshift doesn’t really have any matchups that it’s trying to race in. More to the point, most of the aggro decks don’t have any burn, so once you have Omen and Valakut, you can start mowing down their creatures without a whole lot of effort.

Almost every relevant interaction the Prismatic Omen deck has hinges upon having Prismatic Omen in play. The deck is therefore quite embarrassing when Prismatic Omen is not, you know, in play. Cantrips and Wargate help mitigate this a bit, but cards like Nature’s Claim and Qasali Pridemage are going to be bad for business. Most hate cards for the Omen deck are going to be aimed at Prismatic Omen or Valakut; people are messing around with Nature’s Claim and cards like Leyline of Sanctity. If you want to just sidestep all of those hate cards, I suggest giving Avenger of Zendikar a shot. Oh, you blew up my Omen? Here are a bunch of angry Plants for you to play with.

I pointed out earlier that Faeries can have some pretty bad draws when the deck doesn’t have a Bitterblossom. Well, “bad” does not even begin to approach how miserable some of the Tempered Steel draws can be without Tempered Steel. Let me tell you right now — you’re not going to be bringing the beats with Memnite and Ornithopter. And let’s not kid ourselves: that Steel Overseer is getting killed, and now you’re basically all-in on Ranger of Eos.

Of course, sometimes you draw Memnite, Ornithopter, Thoughtseize, Mox Opal, and Tempered Steel and you look like an absolute genius.

…Until they Nature’s Claim your Tempered Steel.

Traditionally, most successful linear decks have derived their power from having a critical mass of Goblins or Elves or large artifact creatures or dredgers or do you see where I’m going with this? Needing to draw a critical card as a lynchpin of your strategy is more of a hallmark of a combo deck. This is a fragile combo deck that needs to beat down with its combo piece in play for multiple turns.

Yeah, sure. Not beating a control deck ever. Wall of Omens, go. Nice Hellspark Elemental. Nice deck. What about the beatdown decks? Oh, they all have Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tenders to beat the red sweepers the control decks are playing? That’s unfortunate.

(Note that ctrl+f for “Goblin Guide” doesn’t turn up any results in the list of decks that went 4-1-1 or better at Worlds.)

Classic Rock syndrome. Either your draw is all creatures and no disruption and you get annihilated because your “Putrid Leech, Kitchen Finks” draw really isn’t all that impressive against anything… or you draw all Thoughtseizes and Blightnings and no pressure, and eventually a Mistbind Clique puts you away.

When Jund draws the right cards in the right order against the right matchup, it’s actually a pretty solid deck. In pretty much every other situation, it’s basically terrible.

The problem with Jund is that you have to play enough disruption that you’re assured of drawing a couple pieces against the decks you have to disrupt. Those Scapeshift decks can kill on turn 6, so you really should be casting Thoughtseize and hitting them with Blightning early and often, just using a single creature for pressure.

Four-Color Control, on the other hand, will eat your creature-light draw for breakfast; you need plenty of animals to overload all of those removal spells. You need your own removal spells, of course, and you also need lands. If everyone had to play eighty-card decks, Jund would be awesome! Instead, the deck is merely okay, usually after sideboarding.

So what you’re telling me is that you have this deck, and it works if you untap a bunch of times with Fauna Shaman before

untapping with Necrotic Ooze, and that your backup plan if your opponent sacks you out and draws Lightning Bolt is to cast five-mana land destruction?

I see.

You know how last year some people were being a little more aggressive with their mulligans because they didn’t want to be embarrassed if their opponent cast Thoughtseize on turn 1? Maybe you should keep that in mind when you’re making your deck choice.

…So there it is. Play whatever you want. In fact, if you audible at the last second, you’ll be able to blame your unfamiliarity with the deck as the reason you didn’t win the PTQ! So feel free to keep switching decks right up until the judges collect the lists!

Max McCall
max dot mccall at gmail dot com