The last of the Sealed Pro Tour Qualifiers are being played out, and Extended season is fast approaching. Grand Prix Atlanta is also just around the corner, so Extended lists are what the masses seem to be clamoring for. I’m not going to give you any new lists because I don’t consider myself a particularly good deckbuilder. What I do think I’m good at is identifying individual cards that are exceptionally well positioned in a format or metagame.
I’ll start off with an obvious one because it’s actually so good that it deserves the extra attention.
This card is the real thing. In a format full of hyper-redundant aggro decks, I could see an argument against this card, but that’s certainly not the world we live in right now. The decks that are performing well online are Faeries and Four-Color Control (4CC) with Affinity and Jund following close behind. Sure, there have been other decks popping up recently, but those are the big four right now.
Thoughtseize is obviously very good against Faeries and 4CC. Having the ability to strip key cards from them such as Bitterblossom and Cryptic Command is great, but then there’s the added fact that both of these decks play Mana Leak and Cryptic Command, and Faeries plays Spellstutter Sprite. Not only does Thoughtseize allow you to take the best card out of their hand with a negligible drawback, it also gives you vital information about what to play around against decks that have cards that you actually
Against Affinity and Jund, Thoughtseize is still good, albeit slightly more limited. The life matters much more in these matchups, and drawing Thoughtseize in the late game is much worse, but a turn 1 or 2 Thoughtseize can still be devastating. Preventing Jund from curving out or taking a Tempered Steel or Master of Etherium from an Affinity player can be a serious problem for either of these decks. I think playing four Thoughtseizes is still correct, though, because the potential upside you gain from having one in your opening hand outweighs the increased possibility of drawing them in the late game.
Thoughtseize also happens to be great against most of the Valakut decks that are gaining popularity. A good number of the ones I’ve seen are basically ramp decks, and if you can Thoughtseize away their business spells, they tend to look pretty bad.
Faeries is an especially good Thoughtseize deck for many of the same reasons that Thoughtseize is good against Faeries. For the sake of mana efficiency, Faeries plays cheap, conditional counterspells and removal. Thoughtseize, on the other hand, is cheap and almost entirely unconditional, so the Faeries player can eliminate whatever threat they’re currently unable to answer from the opponent’s hand. Gaining information will also allow the Faeries player to know when to leave mana open, when to cast Mistbind Clique, and when it’s appropriate to go on the offensive with Mutavault and Creeping Tar Pit.
Speaking of Valakut decks, this guy is pretty nuts against the Wargate versions. Not only does this guy shut down Wargate, he also stops Cryptic Command, Scapeshift, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Day of Judgment. Yes, they can kill him with a Valakut trigger, but the utility he provides and the time he buys you are both well worth that downside.
To quote Lewis Laskin, “the same thing happens every time. People make all these different decks and then eventually someone just puts all the good cards together and crushes everyone.”
Where’s the love for Knight? This was one of the defining cards of the last Standard format, and it’s seen plenty of play in previous Extended formats and Legacy. I can’t believe that it’s somehow not good enough for this format.
For the most part, the Jund lists that I’ve seen have moved away from Terminate, meaning they only really have Pulse as an answer. They also seem to have moved away from Sprouting Thrinax, which means that an early Knight could quickly become a legitimate Abyss.
Knight isn’t at its best against Faeries or Affinity but can still be very powerful with proper backup. Cryptic Command pairs especially well with Knight against Affinity, providing a real way to race. On the Faeries side, it really depends on their list. Some Faeries decks have literally no profitable way to deal with a resolved Knight, while others have plenty, so Knight will be fairly hit or miss against them.
I’d list all of the things that Knight goes well with, but he really just goes well with everything. Knight makes your Cryptic Commands lethal, gets Sejiri Steppe to protect your best guy (or the aforementioned Kithkin), and, maybe most importantly, can power out the next card on my list.
Manlands, Valakuts, filter lands, Cryptic Command, and Cruel Ultimatum. There are plenty of reasons why Tectonic Edge is great right now. Tectonic Edge isn’t necessarily a card that would go into many of the initial decks in a format. After all, its value is greatly dependent on what people are playing, and I’d say that its value in this format is at one of the highest points ever.
Tectonic Edge is also especially powerful against Wargate decks. If they try to Scapeshift with a Prismatic Omen and six lands in play, you can destroy one of their lands after the Scapeshift resolves. This will cause the Valakut triggers to fizzle on resolution because there won’t be “five other Mountain” in play.
The goal at this point is to build a deck that can support Tectonic Edge. My immediate thoughts lean towards U/W or U/B Control or some sort of G/W/(X) deck with Knight of the Reliquary. In any case, I can’t imagine that this card won’t be making waves in Extended in the near future.
In most formats, there’s some variation on U/W Control. Most recently, they’ve tended less towards true control decks and more towards midrange decks with some counterspells and very powerful card-advantage engines. Not only does Tectonic Edge fit well into this deck because it’s only two colors, it’s also appropriate here because of the amount of card advantage that a deck like this generates. Having the option to trade lands one for one is always a good option to have, but this deck will find itself in a favorable position to do so very often.
Preordain, Jace, Wall of Omens, along with 26 lands, all help to ensure that you’ll be well stocked with cards and rarely missing land drops. Your opponent’s deck may not be as prepared to trade lands, especially if those lands are Valakuts, Mutavaults, or other manlands.
There’s a relatively short explanation for this guy. Everyone is playing nonbasic lands, so he’s good. He’s especially good if you’re damaging your opponent in other ways as well.
Samwise_GeeGee is a Magic Online ringer who has been doing well in Daily Events with this version of Jund. It forgoes some of the cards that people are used to seeing in Jund, such as Sygg, River Cutthroat, Boggart Ram-Gang, and Sprouting Thrinax (less common now) for Fauna Shaman, Anathemancer, and Demigod of Revenge. This gives the deck a dangerous early game if it manages to have a Fauna Shaman stick, and it also provides a devastating late game in which the Jund player is almost always drawing very live.
This deck is also packing eight burn spells and some very offensive creatures, so Anathemancer isn’t expected to do the full twenty. This makes him dangerous even if his ability only deals a few damage.
There are lots of great non-Thoughtseize effects in this format for the low, low price of just one mana. I think this is the perfect time to lower your curve and get in under the midrange and control decks.
In general, I feel like people are treating this format as one that’s fair when it’s really not. Faeries is an absolute house, Jace is legal and might even be too slow, Scapeshift is still a one-card combo, and Thoughtseize, Bloodbraid Elf, Putrid Leech, Knight of the Reliquary, and Vendilion Clique are all also very much legal. The best advice I can give to someone going to GP Atlanta or to an Extended PTQ is this: do something unfair, or be sure you’re beating the unfair decks. Don’t think of this as Standard 2.0. The last Standard seasons didn’t have Scapeshift, Thoughtseize, or Cryptic Command, and those cards alone make this an entirely different battlefield.
Thanks for reading and happy 2011,