The Chump Block – Abyssal Persecutor in Extended

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Friday, February 5th – While I think that Worldwake has brought a scrumptious plateful of treats to appease our appetite for Standard change, I don’t believe it will have nearly as big an impact on Extended. That’s not too surprising, as any new set has to contend with about triple the number of cards in Extended as compared to Standard.

I had thought that the online PTQ two Tuesdays ago was scheduled for 7 in the am, so when my girlfriend left to go to work at 7:01, I had resigned myself to no longer playing in it and began thinking about what actually constructive things I might actually be able to accomplish instead. As it would turn out, I was mistaken about the time and here in Chicago we would be getting underway at a leisurely 9 o’clock. I was still reluctant to join as I didn’t have any Extirpates online (and didn’t really care enough to shell out the money for them) and the prize support for these online PTQs seems to be pretty lacking. This won’t be a tournament report — I find they go on entirely too long and generally don’t really add much to the state of Magic discourse as a whole — but I briefly wanted to mention how I took Dredge out for a spin in a field almost utterly devoid of any hate and proceeded smash my way to 6-0, a feat which in real life means I could’ve just draw in. Online is a different beast though, and although I ended up losing the next two rounds (once to Thopter Depths, once to Zoo), but since my breakers were superb (thanks to all that not losing in the beginning) I squeaked into the Top 8. It would turn out not to matter, as I ended up facing Four-Color Zoo and proceeded to get demolished games 2 and 3 by the same deck that went on to win the whole thing. Almost Getting There 2: Return to Fail Island

While I think that Worldwake has brought a scrumptious plateful of treats to appease our appetite for Standard change, I don’t believe it will have nearly as big an impact on Extended. That’s not too surprising, as any new set has to contend with about triple the number of cards in Extended as compared to Standard. But aside from Loam Lions (perhaps) taking the reins from the swingy Steppe Lynx and (perhaps) Jace and Abyssal Persecutor making appearances, not many decks are going to be getting a huge boost in power. Joraga Warcaller might make an appearance in Elves combo and a couple new decks might arise — my bets are on Amulet of Vigor being at the Vanguard of some combo of haterator-esque deck — but for the most part it would behoove people intending on battling through PTQs to take stock of where Extended is now, as opposed to where it might be in the future.

Where is Extended now? I think that Extended has reached a point where there are fewer Tier 1 decks than there were weeks ago when any one of dozens of different archetypes might be a suitable choice. I think this is mostly in part to the development and subsequent adoption of what I (and others, obviously) think is currently the most powerful deck in Extended: Gerry T’s Thopter/Depths tag team. Just take a look at the most recent online PTQ results: in the Top 8 of the 1/31 event, there were 5 copies of decks running both combos. The ability to tutor up a variety of end games, be they swift via 20/20 or long and drawn out by a swarm of lifegaining chump blockers, is just insane. This deck has the ability to mold its game plan around whatever is harder for the opponent to deal with which lends itself to having a huge advantage in almost every matchup.

The only other deck that I would really consider on par with Thopter Depths is Zoo, specifically one-drop Zoo. Being on the play with a Zoo deck is like getting a huge headstart on the Agrocrag. You might stumble on the way to the top, but the tempo you have over your opponents is often enough to get you the win. In the previous online PTQ, 5 of the top 8 decks were either Zoo or Thopter Depths and the numbers are equally as staggering as you go past into the top 16’s and top 32’s. Either these decks are being piloted by very capable players, or way too many people are picking these decks up, or, where my money would be at, a combination of both. While you should certainly be ready to face the other big dogs of the format — Scapeshift, Elves, Martyr — Thopter Depths and Zoo should absolutely be on the top of one’s “how-do-I-deal-with-these-decks” list when planning for an upcoming event.

Which leads me to a deck I’ve been trying to build. Smallpox has for a long time been a favorite card of mine, and I believe it’s an unappreciated gem. Against decks like Zoo, a Turn 2 Smallpox on the play can cripple the opponent, not only nabbing their first turn beater, but often one of the best lands in their deck. Suddenly those loose 2-land hands they kept have gotten a lot worse (Yes, I realize that’s a best case scenario, but it comes up more often than you’d think). Likewise, Edict effects are one of the best outs to a Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths combo. Unlike traditional removal which targets, cards like Smallpox will prevent the combo if they only have the single Hexmage on the board. Recently, a Smallpox decks won a PTQ in Phoenix, Arizona with the following list:

While I find the Disfigures a little bit underwhelming, I really like the look of this deck. Instead of copying this deck, however, I wanted to take it a bit further. In the PTQ I was in I won a tight 6th round against a similar Rock deck that eventually placed first in the swiss after 8 rounds. While it didn’t run Smallpox, it did run Gatekeeper of Malakir a card that accomplishes a task similar to the Time Spiral uncommon in terms of Edicting the opponent. While a bit slower and a bit less of a blowout, it does manage to carry a Jitte, which started me on the path of wondering if these cards were two great tastes that taste great together. After I figured out that Abyssal Persecutor would be a perfect fit in said deck (I’m already running 8 ways to off my own Persecutor), I know I had the backbone to something I felt had promise.

4 Smallpox, 4 Gatekeeper of Malakir, 3 or 4 Abyssal Persecutor. That was the starting point. I immediately added Thoughtseize, as it seemed like an obvious inclusion. At this point, however, I felt like I was at a crossroads. What, if any, other color would be the peanut butter to my chocolate? Many friends suggested that White would be a nice fit, as it allowed access to cards like Tidehollow Sculler, Flagstones of Trokair, Jotun Grunt and (begrudgingly) Path to Exile. Green seemed like another go-to color as it already had a strong base pedigree and could provide much needed life gain in Kitchen Finks, card advantage in cards like Eternal Witness or Life from the Loam, and of course the ubiquitous Tarmogoyf. Red seemed like a fun choice if not for the sole inclusion of Greater Gargadon who combos nicely with both Bloodghast, Persecutor, and Bitterblossom (just the tokens sadly). To start, I felt like I should at least see what Mono-Black would look like, and this was what I came up with after a first stab:

4 Abyssal Persecutor

4 Bloodghast

4 Gatekeeper of Malakir

3 Dark Confidant

3 Bitterblossom

4 Thoughtseize

4 Smallpox

3 Umezawa’s Jitte

2 Darkblast

1 Smother

1 Duress

2 Damnation

1 Sword of Light and Shadow

3 Chrome Mox

1 Urborg Tomb of Yawgmoth

2 Ghost Quarter

1 Miren, the Moaning Well

17 Swamp


4 Damping Matrix

3 Extirpate

2 Duress

4 Deathmark

2 Cranial Extraction

This deck has a lot of things going for it, but it also has a lot of problems. First and foremost, the deck really wishes it had more life. I originally thought that Bitterblossom and Dark Confidant would be mutually exclusive, especially considering the vampirism of Thoughtseize and Smallpox, but the allure of such good cards drew me to include them. I think testing will show that one of the two cards will have to go and I have a feeling it’s going to be Bob for several reasons, most notably because an Abyssal Persecutor and Bitterblossom seems like much less of a worrisome prospect than a Persecutor and Dark Confidant. I don’t like how the deck has little in the way of maindeck answers to Thopter Foundry, but the sideboard is overloaded with cards to be able to handle it. Damping Matrix is one of the best sideboard techs to come along in a long while, and I strongly believe that ThopterDepth decks are going to have to adapt and soon. The Chrome Moxen are a happily received inclusion, as accelerating out any number of cards is well worth the lost card.

It should be noted that one can discard a Bloodghast to Smallpox to essentially break the parity of the card and “cheat” one into play. I’ve mentioned before how much I respect Darkblast’s ability to deal with many decks, Elves and Faeries specifically, but it can handle a host of problems in Extended including Hellspark Elementals, Dark Confidant, or Steppe Lynx just to name a few.

The deck iteration of the deck included white into the mix, and I would feel much more confident about running this in a tournament, methinks.

I like this deck because it shores up the holes that seemed to be lacking in the first list. Running Kitchen Finks and Gatekeeper of Malakir in the same deck might seem like somewhat of a stretch, and perhaps it is, but 4 Fetid Heath really eases the strain especially alongside Urborg being, an all-around great fixer. Those two lands also enable the fabled turn-2-Smallpox-with-Flagstones play. I chose to run Damping Matrix in the maindeck as an alternative to Jitte just as an experiment. It will, of course, be a ridiculously bad draw against something like Scapeshift or even Zoo, but it was to showcase how easy it would be to maindeck hate for a Thopter Combo deck should you expect its overwhelming prevalence.

The final deck is one that I find the most fun, as it runs one of my favorite cards: Greater Gargadon.

I think this deck is a little too “cute” to really get there. Bloodghast can really power out a Gargadon with a couple of fetchlands, and although Mogg War Marshall is a little better than Epochrasite, the latter comes back as a huge 4/4 which is why it got the nod in my book. The Blood Moons in the side might be a little strange considering they shut off a large portion of my deck as well, but casting it can often be game over against many decks.

I hope you liked my little experiment in deck building. If you liked any deck in particular, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


Zoochz on MTGO
[email protected]