What’s Happening In Extended?

Tuesday, December 28th – How many Jund variants are there? Will Tempered Steel be potent in the PTQs? What card should you be sideboarding, and what new U/W Control deck should you watch out for? Sam answers your questions!

It’s been a big two weeks for Extended. We had the first major event of the new format that will line the first half of the PTQ season, and things were more or less what I’d expected: lots of Cryptic Commands, Valakuts, Bloodbraid Elves, and Bitterblossoms. Things weren’t all old news, though; the biggest new decks to emerge from the Pro Tour were Steel Affinity, Wargate/Omen, and Necrotic Ooze, and I expect all three to be at least serious players in the PTQ season, if not Tier 1 decks.

I mentioned last time that Extended was a cheap format — but that’s changing pretty quickly. The prices on Magic Online for Extended singles have gone through the roof, in large part due to the fact that Shadowmoor and Eventide simply weren’t opened in very good numbers due to serious problems with the Magic Online 3.0 transition debacle (when the number of active players dropped dramatically).

This is most easily seen with the price of the enemy filter lands which, with the exception of Rugged Prairie, have all gone over thirteen tickets — a far cry from the four to five tickets they were going for three weeks ago. Even a niche card seen in only one Tier 1 deck – Prismatic Omen — is pushing the twenty-ticket mark. Traditionally, Magic Online has been a good indicator as to how paper card prices will fluctuate in the near future, though I doubt we will see the paper cards jump that high due to better supply issues.

Regrettably, Jace is showing himself to be a roleplayer in this environment as well, so we may see $120 Jace the Mind Sculptors before too long, especially with two PTQ seasons in a row featuring him as an important card.

Speaking of Magic Online, until the PTQ season ramps up, it’s just about the only place to see the new Extended decks. If you didn’t know it, Wizards
posts a huge number of decklists from the Premier Events and Dailies on their website,
What’s Happening?

If you ever want to check out what’s doing well, go there. You can see new decks for every Constructed format. This has left us with a lot of different things to look at for the evolving format.

Three Different Takes on Jund
Jund comes in any color combination you want, as long as it’s red, green, and black. The deck is clearly very strong, and the extended mana base is makes it much more reliable, but outside of the standard Leech/Bloodbraid/Blightning/Bolt/Pulse package, you have a lot of options on how you can tweak the deck to combat the format. You can speed the deck up to hit the turn 4 kills more often, or slow it down by a turn or two and throw in more disruption.

Thomas Ma, a huge Jund fan (due in no small part, I’m sure, to his finish at Pro Tour: Amsterdam), went with a version of the deck which includes Garruk’s Companion to give the deck more aggressive starts. The Companion all but ensures you will have a turn 2 play with a creature of three power or more, and follows that up with as much targeted removal as possible to clear the way for his creatures, and possibly let work his way into Sygg’ing into some extra cards.

This version of Jund is far from the only version that attempts to be more aggressive than its standard counterpart was. By using a pair of haste creatures that had never been available to Jund in its heyday, Jarvis Yu’s deck was able to 4-0 a Daily Event.

The simple tradeoffs of this list as opposed to the on above are Finks and Garruk’s Companions for Boggart Ram-Gangs and Demigods of Revenge. If you thought the days of “Turn 2 Leech, turn 3 Sprouting Thrinax, turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning” were bad, just wait until you get hit by “Turn 2
Leech, turn 3 Boggart Ram-gang (seven damage), turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf into either Boggart Ram-gang or Blightning (thirteen damage).” And if you survive

onslaught, you still have to deal with the reoccurring Demigods that act as a hell of a trump for the mirror. Thanks for the Blightning, brah!

Now, on to something completely different. I first played against this list in the Tournament practice room, and lost to a surprise Torrent of Souls in game 3. I assumed this was a fluke deck, until I played against it again in a two-man queue. Then, this copy of it top8’d a small Grand Prix Trial for Atlanta.

This list goes in an entirely different direction from the traditional Jund lists. While the core is still there, almost everything else has been replaced with token generators. The list isn’t as fast as the ones above, but the constant onslaught of creatures provides a seemingly never-ending stream of threats that need to be dealt with. And it’s a hard list to tap out against, because Torrent of Souls is generally always lethal.

I don’t know that Jund will be the Big Bad of the metagame this season. We already have Four-Color Control, Prismatic Omen, and Faeries vying for the most frustrating deck to play against, so people have a lot to rage about already. It will, however, always be a major role-player due to the malleability of the card pool. Everyone playing Omen decks? Put more Thoughtseizes and even Thought Hemorrhage in your board. The Esper deck getting you down? I can think of a dozen artifact/enchantment kill spells in your color that can go to your board, and just pack more main deck removal. Mirror matches abound? Hello, Sprouting Thrinax. Everyone playing Vivid Lands? Say hello to four maindecked Anathemancers. The deck can be pushed in one of a dozen ways, so I can’t say which version is the best right now. We’ll have to wait and see how the format settles down before that is clear.

The Great Esper Menace

If you like impressive turn 1s, this is the deck for you. I think my best turn 1 involved playing six cards, with a Tempered Steel in my hand ready to come out on turn 2. Good luck beating

draw with any deck in the format.

I’ve killed as early as turn 3, though that’s rare. Turn 4, however, is pretty average.

That said, I have problems with this deck. I just don’t think it’s a good deck to take to a tournament, but it will continue to be a huge part of the metagame as long as it remains half the price of the next cheapest deck (and even less if you do what most people seem to be doing — replacing Thoughtseize with Duress or Inquisition of Kozilek to make a deck that just about survives the next Extended rotation intact.). For me, the deck is just a little too inconsistent, though I could easily see Mirrodin Besieged changing that. You aren’t missing much… but another one- or two-drop artifact creature would go really far towards making your draws less awkward.

My problem with the deck is that you get a number of hands that are borderline unplayable, but one card off from being absurd. Usually you are on a one-lander or you have three lords, but have only an Ornithopter for an early drop.

If you were playing Jund, and you had the “Oh-so-close, but never-going-to-get-there” hands like Forest, Swamp, Boggart Ram-gang, Bloodbraid Elf , Terminate, Blightning, Lightning Bolt, then it was easy to mulligan. Yes, you’d have a pretty good hand if you drew a red source post-haste — but it’s obvious that you are one card off from having a keeper. After all, your deck generates so much card advantage that going to six can be recouped fairly easily.

With Steel Artifact, you don’t generate any card advantage outside of Ranger of Eos and Tidehollow Sculler. Your deck relies totally on the fact that you are able to win by turn 4 — after all, it’s hard to compete with your opponent starts casting Cryptic Command over and over again. Instead, you are almost always forced to keep all but the sketchiest of sketchy hands. Generally, they improve, but sometimes it looks like you are playing a small child’s “just for fun” deck.

You also have one of the more obnoxious mirror matchups in the format. The mirror’s almost always determined by who’s on the play, though the player on the draw can win if they have one more lord than their opponent. That, or one player can draw Tempered Steel and Thopter Foundry to stall the board out just long enough to get a win in the air. There isn’t a lot of skill to the mirror outside of knowing when to chump block, and which cards to take with Tidehollow Sculler and Thoughtseize — meaning that there aren’t a lot of ways to outskill your opponent other than not making any blatant misplays.

I also think that until recently, Steel Artifact has benefited from a format that was unprepared to deal with it. Sure, the Four-Color Control decks already packed Cryptic Commands and Wrath of God effects to keep you under wraps — but everyone else was looking to fight Jund and Faeries as the creature decks, and wasn’t prepared to deal with the speed of Steel Artifact. They just didn’t have a way to get back from being that far behind on turn 3.

Anyone worth their salt, however, is going to ready to battle Steel Artifact come January 8

. If you look at the Extended Daily results on Magic Online, you can see that the deck put up great numbers early on, which have steadily dropped as more and more decks have taken measures to combat the deck. There are sideboard cards that can deal with the deck; you just have to know to run them. Which brings me to my next point:

Nature’s Claim

Nature’s Claim is
by far

the most underplayed sideboard card in extended right now. Steel Artifact and Prismatic Omen are both tier 1 decks, and both of them are very vulnerable to the card. When I was testing each, I would have lost countless games to a well-timed Nature’s Claim. The fact that Prismatic Omen has absolutely no way to win without their namesake card in play, and stopping a one-mana instant is about as hard as you can imagine. It makes setting up your win a much dicier proposition against any deck with a clock. Tapping out on turn 4 for a Wargate is bad enough in this format without worrying that it’s going to just result in you getting Time Walked + seven damage.

Against Steel Artifact, killing one of their early lords for only one G, and therefore still being able to build up your board at the same time, can easily be enough to turn the game to your favor.

At the very least, Elves should be running four in the board, and I’m inclined to think it would be good for Ooze and the Wargate decks as well. Jund may or may not need the card, since they do already have Maelstrom Pulse, but if you are concerned about the amount of Esper you are forced to play, then it can fit in there as well.

Emerging Decks

This deck showed up recently as a 4-0 deck in an Extended daily, and it provides an interesting twist on the Cryptic Command control deck.

This deck seems well poised to take on Jund, Tempered Steel and the vivid control decks. The Walls/Finks/Sun Titan provide a package that will be pretty hard to break though — and between Little Jace/Titan and Oblivion Ring, you have some good tools to try and win the Jace Wars as well. (Not having red probably really hurts this deck’s matchup against Faeries, but I assume that is what the War Priests are for — neutralizing the most important card in that matchup, Bitterblossom.)

So, where to do go from here? Extended is far from fully explored as a format. The two most notable things that I haven’t seen people playing a lot of yet are Vengevines and hideaway lands. The power of an absurd Vengevine turn is somewhat mitigated by cards like Cryptic Command, so I can see it being a little less popular — but the card probably should be showing up somewhere. Between Fauna Shaman and Hedron Crab, we have the tools to get it in our yards. I’ll be brewing up something in the near future to try and take advantage of the card.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a deck that tries to abuse the hideaway lands and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Obviously you can’t always hit it — but if you hit a Primeval Titan, you can get two more opportunities to rebuy into him, or a Summoning Trap to find him. Three of these decks ended up 5-1 or better at Chiba, but they haven’t gotten a lot of attention yet. The strategy behind it seems more than strong enough to give it a shot.


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