The Chump Block – A Few New Extended Ideas

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Friday, January 8th – I know I expressed it last week, but I can’t get over the excitement I feel when looking forward toward Extended season. For those ambitious deckbuilders out there, the world is your oyster. Extended right now is the very antithesis of Standard, as archetype after archetype has proven itself able to put up the results.

I know I expressed it last week, but I can’t get over the excitement I feel when looking forward toward Extended season. For those ambitious deckbuilders out there, the world is your oyster. Extended right now is the very antithesis of Standard, as archetype after archetype has proven itself able to put up the results. I doubt anyone needs cold-hard facts to believe it, but for those naysayers out there who do, the facts are there. In the first two online PTQs of the season, there were a total of 7 different archetypes in the Top 8 each day. While it is true that the beginning steps of a season are often the most innovative, and therefore high variance, this seems like something of a record especially considering the 2 PTQs combined had a total of 11 different. As Inspector Gadget would say, “Wowzers.”

I am not here to itemize these tournaments, provide their lists, or comment on how these matchups play out; I’ll leave that to Mike Flores (who certainly has his hands full this week). I’d rather take this opportunity bestowed by my lofty soapbox to have some fun. I love trying to find interesting cards or strategies that people have yet to discover, and I hope in this article to put forth several ideas that people may find interesting enough to explore themselves. DISCLAIMER: If you are looking for kid-tested, mother-approved decklists, this article is not for you. I bestow no “unbeatable deck” status to these decks, and if you have only a limited time frame within which to prepare, you might be serving yourself better by taking a looksie for yourself at the best performing decks from this past week’s PTQs.

One hundred thousand years ago when Zendikar was just being spoiled, there was an under-the-radar card that very soon found itself very much on the radar, as everyone seemed to simultaneously “understand” how powerful it could be. Everyone was writing articles about and coming up with deck lists containing Bloodchief Ascension, and the card soon ballooned from average-rare price to one of the highest (non-fetchland, non-Day-of-Judgment, non-mythic) rares in the set. While it still commands a fair price tag, we all know how the tale of Mr. Bloodchief and His Ascension turned out… namely, not well. The card never seemed to find its home, which is a shame because of how powerful the effect can be. I am really hoping its new home can be in Extended.

What led me to this card in the first place was an epiphany when it comes to step 1 for Bloodchief Ascension, a.k.a. ‘dealing your opponent two damage’. In Standard, getting those elusive quest counters on the enchantment proved to be, well, elusive, as creature combat was often mucked up on the ground with Leeches and Thrinaces. Or it was Purged. Or Pulsed. Or etc. It is much, much easier to ascend in Extended thanks to the overwhelming prevalence of those need-to-have Ravnica shocklands. How often does your opponent deal themselves 2 damage via a shockland in any given game? By landing a turn 1 Bloodchief Ascension on the play, you make every damage-versus-tempo decision of said lands that much more important. There is also a much higher set of card from which to build making a Bloodchief Ascension that much more likely to come to fruition and be relevant. I’m not saying that playing it turn 1 is game over against any deck, but there are some very interesting ramifications.

There are a few decks out there that have a very hard time winning through an active Bloodchief Ascension. Scapeshift is a great example. Without removing the Ascension from the board, a Scapeshift player simply cannot cast their game-winning sorcery. Well, they certainly can try. But if, for example, they sacrifice the requisite 7 lands, they will end up losing 16 life before any of the Valakut triggers resolve. Thopter Foundry too, has a very hard time comboing off through Bloodchief Ascension, as instead of netting them a life, is sucks one away for every token they make. Affinity can no longer go crazy with their Ravagers, Burn has to fight repeated lifegain, Dredge straight up cannot win. Every fetchland suddenly costs 3 life! Of these decks, only Thopter Foundry decks have easily accessible answers in the form of Cryptic Commands and fetchable Explosives.

Here is the list that I cobbled together:

Clearly, this is just a starting point. There aren’t as many one-drops as I’d like, which makes me feel like the deck could find itself on the back foot quickly against some more aggressive decks. There also aren’t as many ways to deal direct damage as I’d like, as many of the options — Burst Lightning, Magma Jet — just didn’t feel like they’d make the cut. Blightning is a card that I want to keep in so badly, it’s “combo” with Bloodchief Ascension can’t be ignored (Hello, eleven point life swing!), but just might be too slow for Extended. One final problem that I can see offhand is its propensity to damage itself via Dark Confidant and Leech, not to mention the standard “Lightning Bolt myself” strategy of fetchland into a shockland. While Jitte and hopefully Ascension can provide some much needed lifegain, they’re no Lightning Helix.

Burning-Tree Shaman is another one of the cards that I found myself wanting to build a deck around for various reasons, and it works out nicely that I can introduce it in the same deck. It has a lot of anti-synergy with the deck in making Putrid Leech and Jitte slightly worse (among other cards), but the upside is still worth it. A 3/4 for 3 isn’t the nuts anymore, but in a deck without access to White, it might be a passable Knight of the Reliquary substitution. Secondly, it should be noted that a Shaman on the board creates a nice little combo with opposing fetchlands, inducing the requisite amount of pain to start ascending. Originally I had wanted to play the Centaur Shaman as it would be a good foil to the Thopter Foundry Decks that attempt to crawl away from their impending doom via their life-gaining combo. Mr. Shaman does not allow that. I think he will probably end up on the sideboard if this deck takes off, but he’s certainly got my attention for the time being. If I had to come up with a sideboard for the deck, a preliminary one would probably look something like: 3 Deathmark, 4 Ancient Grudge, 4 Kitchen Finks, 4 Thoughtseize.

The next deck idea is a sprawling tale of dead-ends and flashes of insight, starting off entirely dissimilar from the path that I thought it might take. It was spawned by insight into a card that, while not foreign to Extended in the slightest, spends most of its time on the sidelines these days. In being restricted to merely targeting Islands and Plains that Cryoclasm would be ideally suited for the sideboard until one looks at the most recent top performing decks of this extended season. Other than Mono Red, Affinity and Rock decks, just about every other deck is packing either Plains, Islands, or both. True, Stone Rain isn’t the powerhouse it once was when your opponent can sneak Tarmogofys under them, but even against Zoo decks, Wild Nacatls and Kird Apes become much more docile when they don’t have their stat-pumping lands to romp around in. Paired with Molten Rain, one could potentially run 8 maindeck damage- inducing LD spells.

There are several decks that could potentially spawn from this LD focus in Extended. The first that I had revolved around pairing the Red with Black for one of my favorite Extended cards, Smallpox. Acting as one of the more effective speedbumps against speedy Zoo decks, casting a Smallpox on the play after a one-drop can oftentimes so cripple your opponent that you have ample time to win. Other Black cards that I felt might deserve a spot in the deck were Shadow of Doubt and Bitterblossom. For those of you who have never considered Shadow of Doubt as an LD spell, count the number of times where you have been on the play and your opponent has cracked their fetchland at the end of your turn. It’s extremely janky, but a cantripping supplemental land denial spell certainly deserves a look. It also makes a very good trump for several game-breaking spells — Scapeshift, Gifts Ungiven — and can, at the very least, cycle itself late game. The Bitterblossoms were there to provide some sort of hard-to-kill threat that could quickly end a game where an opponent couldn’t muster up much of a defense.

Ultimately, there wasn’t a way (in this deck at least) to break the parity of Smallpox in anyway. I even tried to see how possible “splashing” for Flagstones and assorted cards could be, but the mana to cast a turn 2 Pox was pretty difficult if I was hoping to have a Flagstones in play. Yet the more I thought about what other White cards I wanted to splash, the more I realize that White itself would be more than ample in providing the second color for this deck, which then had me spawn this idea.

The deck certainly needs a bit of tweaking, but it’s a first step. It’s missing a few of the traditional Stax mainstays, Trinisphere and Crucible of Worlds to name a couple, and perhaps they deserve to stay in, but my reasoning is this: Extended is not Legacy. There are a multitude of decks who will be largely unaffected by Trinisphere (any sort of control deck), and there are no two-mana lands in the format to reliably power out a turn 2 (or turn 1) Trinisphere against aggro. I could run Chrome Mox over the signet, but there is so little actual card advantage in the deck and having to ditch a card just to be able to cast a turn 2 ‘Sphere or Stone Rain is a little too much of a sacrifice. I wanted the early defense against Zoo, one of the archetypes one should absolutely be able to beat the majority of the time, and the ability to stop that turn 1 spell can be crucial with Mana Tithe (not to mention that, in destroying their lands, most decks will be hurting for mana).

It could very well be that Goblin Ruinblaster is better than Avalanche Rider, or conversely, that Molten Rain is better than Fulminator Mage, but having both effects that destroyed only non-basic lands seemed to be a bit risky, making all of their basics almost immune to my ill intent. There are certainly other cards that could be considered with this deck as well. Duergar Hedge-Mage could certainly be in the sideboard and brought in if you are expecting lots of artifact lands. Magus of the Moon and Blood Moon are certainly possibilities as well, and the normal problem of opposing basic lands can finally be nipped in the bud through basic-land killing spells. When I originally built a RW land destruction deck back in the days of Time Spiral/Lorwyn Standard, I rocked Reveillark maindeck. Not only is the creature a house, but getting it destroyed also usually means destroying two more lands. All of these are just food for thought, but it seems like it could be quite fun. A potential sideboard would be very much directed toward whatever decks you were planning on seeing the most, but a catchall one might look something like: 4 Duergar Hedge-Mage, 3 Relic of Progenitus, 3 Condemn, 1 Crucible of Worlds, 4 Blood Moon.

A final deck idea is no new, but one I hope can be ported over into Extended. Merfolk may or may not have all the tools to compete, but they’re certainly worth a look.

There are probably a few cards that immediately spark a “wtf?” from you, the reader. Cosi’s Trickster is a card that can be an incredible turn 1 play from the merfolk player. Even if the opponent cracks a single fetchland, it still means you just cast a 2/2 one-drop in a Blue deck, and cards such as Gifts, Trinket Mage, and Sakura-Tribe Elder all only work toward making it larger. With that said, it’s by far the worst topdeck these 60 can muster, and perhaps should be dropped considering the Chrome Moxen in the deck. I like the Chrome Moxen in the deck as dropping a turn 1 Sygg can potentially recoup the card advantage if the opponent cracks a fetchland into a shockland. Finally, the Piracy Charms are a cute way of adding some sort of extra damage to the deck while at the same time providing semi removal for Steppe Lynx, Noble Hierarchs, or Hellspark Elementals (basically, anything with a one toughness). It’s a little janky, but I was trying to build a Mono Blue deck that could be both aggressive and have a shot at not being blown away by Steppe Lynx.

Luckily, for those who want to play a deck with “better” cards, there is certainly the option of playing another color. Probably the one I’d be most likely to suggest would be Red, as it provides some fun options, namely, Lightning Bolt and other assorted burn. White gets you not only a solid dual land in Wanderwine Hub, and solid maindeck spells like Sygg, River Guide and Path to Exile, but some great sideboard options in Meddling Mage, Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, and CoP: Red. If I were to build a sideboard for the above mono-Blue deck, it might look like: 3 Threads of Disloyalty, 4 Riptide Pilferer, 2 Glen Elendra Archmage, 3 Relic of Progentius, 3 Hurkyl’s Recall.

I hope at least some of you enjoyed this little foray into the unknown. If you’d like to comment in the forums I’d love to hear what you have to say, although please remember that these decks are not polished.