Tribal Thriftiness #105 – Inexpensive Extended

Tuesday, March 16th – Dave explores some inexpensive options for the ongoing Extended PTQ season.

We’re smack in the middle of Extended PTQ season still, and I gotta tell you, it’s nutty out there for players who don’t have hundreds of dollars to drop on a brand new deck. Tarmogoyfs have somehow managed to get to a point where a playset of them is more than my car payment! Dark Depths used to be a wacky casual card; now it’s forty bucks a pop. And those pillars of excess in Standard, Baneslayer Angel and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, have been making their presence felt in the format as well. And that’s without mentioning the hundred-dollar manabases… yeah, Extended decks aren’t for the faint of budget. My grandmother just sold her Extended deck and bought a widescreen TV. “The better to see the tight bods of the baseball players,” she says.

But fear not! As usual, inexpensive options can be found if you’re willing to adapt top decks to your budgetary concerns. And if you baulk at playing Dragonstorm like I did in the last PTQ, there are still good, proven decks in each of the three demographics for you to put together fairly inexpensively.

A quick note: Please keep in mind that these are “relatively” inexpensive to start with, but still might have somewhat of a price tag. I’ve made suggestions where possible to try and cut back costs, but since these cost-cutting measures invariably start with the manabase, further testing should definitely be done if you consider one of these decks for an Extended tournament.

Combo: Living End

It was just a matter of time, after Hypergenesis debuted at Pro Tour: Austin back in 2009, that people would start trying to cheat other Suspend spells into play on the backs of the Cascade cards. I mean, I personally played around with a deck designed around Wheel of Fate, but Zoo would just thank me for giving them seven new guys to put on the field. I’ve seen Restore Balance decks built around the idea, but parity really isn’t what you’re going for in this scenario – you need to be at least coming close to the 10/10 protection-from-everything guys that the other “Cascade Combo” deck is throwing down. What’s great about Travis Woo Living End deck is that it’s a threat and an answer all wrapped up into one – it effectively blows up whatever world your opponent is creating, taking down Progenitus and Marit Lage, and then sets you up immediately following that with (hopefully) a winning board position.

Rare Cost Summary:
Fulminator Mage ($1.99 x 4 = $7.96)
Living End ($2.99 x 3 = $8.97)
Night of Soul’s Betrayal ($0.99 x 2 = $1.98)
Arid Mesa ($11.99 x 2 = $23.98)
Blood Crypt ($8.99 x 1 = $8.99)
Overgrown Tomb ($7.99 x 1 = $7.99)
Scalding Tarn ($11.99 x 2 = $23.98)
Stomping Ground ($11.99 x 1 = $11.99)
Verdant Catacombs ($11.99 x 4 = $47.96)

Yes, it’s true – barring the manabase, Travis Woo Top-8 Living End deck can be built, all said and done, for around the price of a good steak dinner. And how sad is it that you can actually reduce the cost of the manabase by ADDING Ravnica dual lands to it? The key things you want to ensure that you can do with this deck: cycle the early guys, have mana to cast Demonic Dread or Violent Outburst by turn 3 (not that you have to, obviously), and then the next target is the 2BB for Night of Souls’ Betrayal. Adjusting the manabase to be a little more wallet-friendly would start with the removal of the fetchlands, and adding more basics – this makes you more resilient to Blood Moon while having a (hopefully) small impact to your goals. You already have one landcycler in Valley Rannet; the deck COULD support Igneous Pouncer (and probably doesn’t mostly because of the bad interaction with Night of Souls’ Betrayal and the fact that it dies to everything, including a Sakura-Tribe Elder) – but having a pair in the deck would help to ensure that you are getting the colors you need for your Cascade spells. Graven Cairns ($3.99) is another possibility, as it helps you cast Demonic Dread and Night of Souls’ Betrayal without impacting the early cycling game.

I’d start with a manabase like:

2 Blood Crypt
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Stomping Ground
1 Graven Cairns
4 Forest
4 Swamp
4 Mountain

It maintains the approximate ratios of Red-Green-Black mana available, and reduces the cost of the manabase from $125 to $62 – so by right around half. And then I’d supplement the landfetching by removing a couple of the cycling creatures (probably 1x Deadshot Minotaur, 1x Ingot Chewer) and adding in 2x Igneous Pouncer.

Aggro: Affinity

Thanks to the overwhelming amount of hate available to PTQ players in Extended, Affinity is one of those decks that people just assume will never show up thanks to the severe amount of hate, and then refuse to run the hate — which leaves the door open for some enterprising player to remind them exactly why Affinity was such a monster when it was in Standard. Having a successful Affinity afternoon does rely somewhat on predicting the metagame, but all by itself, the could-be-present-could-be-absent hate has reduced Affinity’s major rare, Arcbound Ravager, down from it’s $25+ heyday down to a reasonable $14.99 — which is pretty good, since the rest of the deck is primarily commons and uncommons.

Rare Cost Summary:
Arcbound Ravager ($14.99 x 4 = $59.96)
Master of Etherium ($4.99 x 4 = $19.96)
Blood Moon ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)
Blinkmoth Nexus ($4.99 x 3 = $14.97)

This is Christian Siebold’s PTQ-winning list from last week in Frankfurt. The other decks in his Top 8 had all shied away from specific Affinity hate like Kataki, War’s Wage and opted for sideboard options with broader appeal, like Damping Matrix – unfortunately, Affinity is more than capable of putting itself into a winning board position by the time an opponent can drop Damping Matrix, playing out multiple turn 1 threats and playing an equipping a Cranial Plating the next turn. At that point, Damping Matrix might prevent Modular shenanigans, but a 8/2 Ornithopter doesn’t need much more than what’s it already holding in its… I don’t know, do Ornithopters have hands? Beaks? What’s great – or sad – is that Christian Top 8’ed the PTQ the previous week in Leipzig. Same 60. Even with a decent finish by Affinity in the previous week, the Affinity-specific hate just wasn’t present. That sets the stage for Affinity to make a comeback – which is great for anybody who was playing during Affinity’s run in Standard who still has those Ravagers lying around.

There’s not much you can do to cut the costs down much further on Affinity – the Ravagers are critical pieces of the machine, the Masters give you a backup beatdown plan should you get stuck under a Matrix or not find a Cranial Plating, and Blinkmoth Nexus is a good evasive attacker, something this deck lacks.

Control: Teachings

Ever since Magic players went all “your peanut butter in my chocolate” and smooshed the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo into the Dark Depths deck, I’ve been wondering what would happen if you took them back apart. Whenever I play against the DDT deck, I always feel like the main (and easily foiled) plan is to make a 20/20… whatever-that-is token – and then the deck has to fall back on the Thopter / Sword plan. But recently, decks have been turning up around Magic Online (and sometimes in real life, too) that are trying to get back to the non-Depths-y roots of the Foundry.

Rare Cost Summary:
Dralnu, Lich Lord ($0.59 x 1 = $0.59)
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)
Cryptic Command ($9.99 x 3 = $29.97)
Extirpate ($9.99 x 1 = $9.99)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor ($59.99 x 1 = $59.99)
Engineered Explosives ($19.99 x 2 = $39.98)
Academy Ruins ($3.99 x 1 = $3.99)
Drowned Catacomb ($4.99 x 2 = $9.98)
Glacial Fortress ($7.99 x 3 = $23.97)
Hallowed Fountain ($13.99 x 2 = $27.98)
Marsh Flats ($11.99 x 3 = $35.97)
Misty Rainforest ($11.99 x 1 = $11.99)
Mystic Gate ($3.99 x 2 = $7.98)
Scalding Tarn ($11.99 x 1 = $11.99)
Watery Grave ($10.99 x 2 = $21.98)

It’s a long laundry list of rares, but with the singleton nature of the deck (tool-boxy thanks to the Mystical Teachings), a lot of the rares should be easier to find – and if you don’t have a specific rare (like that $60 Jace), you can replace with as close a functional replacement as possible, perhaps the $10 less-mature version of Jace? If you’re shy on $20 Engineered Explosives, maybe you replace with $13 Damnations? Not quite as recursive with Academy Ruins, but still good at killing monsters.

As for the manabase: I really like the presence of the Shadowmoor filter lands – they make casting just about everything easier, from Thopter Foundry to Cryptic Command to Teferi to Dralnu to transmuting Tolaria West. They make great substitution choices, because they enter the battlefield untapped and help get you the colors you need. And if I’d even consider Arcane Sanctum as a replacement possibility if I had a lot of holes to fill.

4 Arcane Sanctum
3 Mystic Gate
2 Sunken Ruins
1 Academy Ruins
1 Ghost Quarter
3 Glacial Fortress
2 Drowned Catacomb
1 Tolaria West
4 Island
2 Plains
2 Swamp

This drops the cost of the manabase from about $160 to around $65. It will need some playtesting to determine the proper ratios, but it’s close on the original ratios, and still maintains the Tolaria West toolbox.

The most unbelievable part of this deck is that Cryptic Command is $10. This will sound dumb, but sometimes the free market process of supply and demand just amazes me. Not even a year removed from its peak in Standard and a $25 price tag, here we see arguably the most powerful Blue card printed in the last few years resting at a comfortable ten bucks. With Wizards sitting atop the pile at the end of the last Extended season (as well as Next Level Blue), it seemed very likely that Cryptic Command would continue its power trip well into this season. Evidently the loss of Riptide Laboratory (and the introduction of Vampire Hexmage and Thopter Foundry) allowed the control archetypes to shift away from being heavily-Blue, which lessened the potential of Cryptic Command, and gifted us that $10 pricetag. If you plan on playing control in future Extended formats, and you don’t already have a set of Cryptic Commands, now may be the time to go ahead and pick them up.

Next Week

I’d like to touch on the discussion about the Reserved List and the cost of playing Legacy, but I’m not sure if it will be a whole article unto itself, or as part of a smorgasbord of other topics that just haven’t found column inches over the last couple of months.

Until next time…


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