Whither Extended? A Potential Look at the Format, Post Rotation

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Thursday, March 27th – Wizards has tweaked the upcoming Extended rotation, letting up play with our Onslaught fetchlands for another year. Good news for those who shelled out big bucks for those Flooded Strands. Nevertheless, a whopping seven sets are leaving Extended, a veritable K-T Extinction Event in the Magic kingdom.

So Wizards has tweaked the upcoming Extended rotation, letting up play with our Onslaught fetchlands for another year. Good news for those who shelled out big bucks for those Flooded Strands.

Nevertheless, a whopping seven sets are leaving Extended, a veritable K-T Extinction Event in the Magic kingdom. Some decks will survive. Some will evolve into something else. And some will be as dead as the dodos.

But which decks?

This sounds like a very interesting exercise, if’n you ask me.

Before we begin this little experiment, some caveats:

1. There’s still two more expansions yet to come before Extended rotates out, and it’s quite foreseeable that some news cards may breathe new life into existing, fading archetypes, or new archetypes may emerge from Shadowmoor and Eventide. This article may be a bit premature, but I’ve never been renowned for my patience.

2. It’s also quite possible I’m dead wrong. I see this as a fun exercise to look into the future, in no way, shape or form do I consider this a concrete look into what Extended will look like in October. Agree, disagree, feel free to chime up in the forums.

3. As always, this an exhibition, not a competition, please, no wagering.

Key losses: Careful Study, Breakthrough, Tireless Tribe, Putrid Imp, Ichorid, Cabal Therapy, Cephalid Coliseum

Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Gone are four one-mana dredge enablers, only one of which — Putrid Imp — was what you’d consider “fragile.” Gone, too, is the recursive Ichorid kill, effectively neutering this once powerful archetype.

The nerfing of Dredge will have the greatest impact on the new Extended, as Dredge was the one deck you either a) played or b) had to have defenses against. Every B/x deck packed four Leyline of the Void in the sideboard, and would often supplement that with Extirpate, Yixlid Jailer, and/or Tormod’s Crypt. Heck, some decks that merely splashed Black had Leylines, and decks with no Black had to run Crypts, because at a big tournament, Dredge was going to be there, and you were almost guaranteed to run into it.

With Dredge removed from the environment, that’s going to free up plenty of sideboard spots to combat other decks, and, perhaps, allow other graveyard-centric strategies to thrive that were otherwise untenable due to splash damage. Reanimator decks lose Stitch Together and Buried Alive in the rotation, but I imagine better minds than mine could easily cobble a deck together with Zombify and whatnot.

But is Dredge completely dead? Its power level is getting knocked down quite a few points, but when it was Standard legal it was still a potent enough deck, and in Extended there’s Chrome Mox in addition to Simian Spirit Guide to power out a turn 1 Lore Broker or Magus of the Bazaar, and I imagine a turn 1 Magus can be just as scary in Extended as it was in Standard.


No, probably not. Odds are Dredge is dead unless new discard outlets appear in future sets, in which case, said bets are off.

Verdict: Crippled, but perhaps salvageable.

The Rock/Death Cloud
Key Losses: Duress, Cabal Therapy, Pernicious Deed, Living Wish, Tsabo’s Decree, Collective Restraint, Spiritmonger, Genesis

Yes, I’m kind of lumping these decks together, although most decks called The Rock are running Pernicious Deed and not Death Cloud, and Death Cloud decks are running Cloud but not Deed, but many run both. Confused? I am.

After the death of Dredge, the biggest impact on Extended environment is the loss of Duress and Cabal Therapy — the Golden Age of one-mana discard is now over. Losing Duress isn’t that tremendous a loss; most decks that utilized it now run Tarmogoyf-snagging Thoughtsieze instead. But Cabal Therapy’s disappearance will ripple through Extended, giving a boost to… well, every other deck that didn’t want its hand ripped apart, so combo and control decks can breathe a little easier now.

Of course, losing Cabal Therapy doesn’t hurt this archetype as much as others, since it really doesn’t have too much in the way of creatures that want to be sacrificed for the effect (Sakura-Tribe Elder would much rather find a land, thank you very much), but losing it still hurts.

Also gone is Pernicious Deed (board clearer extraordinaire), and the Living Wish toolbox. Genesis saw some play, but Spiritmonger has been on the outside looking in a lot.

That said, you’re still left with a lot of raw power. The Top / fetchlands / Sakura-Tribe Elder engine is still there, and Death Cloud + Damnation can pull off a pretty decent Pernicious Deed impression. Kill Jittes, no, but clear the board? Check. These decks needs a little tweaking, not a major retooling, perhaps along the line of Kamigawa/Mirrodin-era Standard Cloud decks.

In the end, you’re left with a deck that might be a scosh slower against control decks but still has a pretty high ceiling in the new environment.

Verdict: Playable

Key Losses: Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Cabal Therapy, Dralnu’s Crusade

At least Onslaught block is sticking around for another year, so Warchiefs, Prospectors, and Piledrivers still form the backbone of the deck. Losing the Matron hurts, most likely meaning that without a tutor, Goblin decks can no longer effectively run one-ofs like Goblin Pyromancer and Goblin Sharpshooter.

Much more painful is the loss of the Ringleader, allowing the Goblin deck to reload for the mid to late game and smooth out clunky draws.

Still, Goblins are like cockroaches; you can never kill them completely, regardless of the format. Goblins can be rebuilt along the lines of Onslaught Block Constructed, heavy on the Siege-Gang Commanders and Clickslithers, splashing for some of Morningtide’s more powerful prowlers. It may not be as consistent, but the raw power is still there.

Personally, I think Clickslithers and Mogg War Marshal make a nasty combo. Also note that Engineered Plague, bane of Goblins, leaves the Extended environment with 7th’s rotation.

Verdict: Playable but mildly nerfed

Key Losses: Cabal Therapy, Vindicate, Duress

Again, gone is much of the discard, but the Thoughtsieze count can perhaps be upped a bit to compensate, two life be damned.

What may cripple Doran is the loss of discard, enabling decks that are dependent upon big mana spells (I’m looking at you, Death Cloud) freer to ramp up to dropping their hammers; Gaddock Teeg main deck may be required to help combat this.

What may end up happening is Rock-style and Doran decks, sharing many of the same cards, may begin to merge into a deck that combines the best surviving elements of both. It’s also possible that, without Vindicate backup, Doran will completely leave the environment, but it’s such a powerful card I just don’t see that happening.

I’d still like another one mana discard spell, though. And one that doesn’t suck, either.

Verdict: Playable

Key Losses: Cabal Therapy, Engineered Plague, Meddling Mage

What does Affinity lose? Cabal Therapy, perhaps, Meddling Mage and Engineering Plague. Minor losses, but Affinity is a winner by standing still; many of its “predators” have gone extinct. Goblins has taken a big hit. Pernicious Deed is gone. Living Wish for a singleton Kataki, War’s Wage is no longer an option. True, Engineered Explosives is still around, but who runs maindeck Pithing Needle in an Affinity deck? (Yes, that is sarcasm).

Evolutionarily speaking, there’s a big hole where a top predator once was, and something’s got to fill it.

Verdict: If you haven’t gotten your Ravagers yet, order them now.

Red Deck Wins
Key Losses: Grim Lavamancer, Lava Dart, Barbarian Ring, Firebolt, Terminate

The losses don’t seem to bad for this oldest living descendant of the original Sligh decks, but losing Barbarian Ring, Firebolt, and Lavamancer takes away much of the deck’s ability to create a clock even when the red zone gets gummed up.

RDW already adopted a Green splash with Tarmogoyf and Kird Ape (I had argued that the deck should now be called Goyf Deck Wins, but was ignored as usual), and I suspect more Green will find its way into the deck and it’ll be more of a traditional R/G beatdown deck — Quirion Dryad, Scab-Clan Mauler, and Troll Ascetic are already in some decks, and Reckless Charge is still available for another year. Perhaps Countryside Crusher finds a home here…?

Verdict: Playable (once Dan Paskins comes up with something)

Previous Level Blue/Next Level Blue
Key Losses: Counterspell, Force Spike

Paul Cheon “Previous” Level Blue build, with its reliance on hard counters, not the Top / Counterbalance engine, is pretty well nerfed. NLB, on the other hand, loses… what? Not a whole lot. Yes, losing the Most Awesomest Hard Counter Ever Printed (After Mana Drain) sucks, but Force Spike wasn’t even that heavily played.

It still has Tarmogoyf. It still has Vedalken Shackles (and Threads of Disloyalty, too). It still has the Top/Counterbalance engine. The counterspells will require a fair amount of rejiggering, for Mana Leak and Rune Snag are no Counterspells — but they may have to do. The deck may also have to lean more heavily on Remand, Spell Snare, and Cryptic Command.

Verdict: Playable

Burn Deck Wins
Key Losses: Barbarian Ring

So, here’s the deal: I’m just going to sit here and throw burn at your face until you’re dead, m’kay?

It sounds suspiciously like the strategy first adopted by ten-year-olds just picking up the game, but one can’t argue with the (reasonable) success of the deck. And it only loses Barbarian Ring, although I have seen versions splashing Black for Cabal Therapy to get extra use out of Spark Elemental and Keldon Marauders.

This is the kind of deck that usually only appears towards the end of a season, pushing the envelope as far as it’ll go without tearing, then disappears, and Burn Deck Wins, with its monomaniacal bent of 20-to-the-dome, is certainly that. Whether it’s a one-shot wonder or an actually archetype with staying power, I’m not yet prepared to say, but I wouldn’t completely forget this deck.

Verdict: Playable(?)

Mind’s Desire
Key Losses: Invasion sac lands, Darkwater Egg, Cabal Ritual, Burning Wish, Cunning Wish, Moment’s Peace

Key Losses: Invasion sac lands, Burning Wish, Fire/Ice, Solitary Confinement, Engineered Plague

I lump these together since they’re both combo decks that lean heavily on the Invasion sac lands, and since discard effects won’t be as prevalent, they might have a bit more resilience.

Ideal is most likely crippled, and not just because it loses a big chunk of its mana acceleration – but that’s the biggest reason. Losing the Wish engine means it can’t cheat and dip into its sideboard for the fourth copy of Enduring Ideal, and no Solitary Confinement keeps it from dropping it’s can’t-lose condition.

Mind’s Desire should remain fairly playable, despite the loss of Cabal Ritual, Burning Wish, and a mana filter in Darkwater Egg, but it can’t Wish for the Tendrils kill anymore. What, then, should the new kill mechanism be? Brain Freeze, perhaps? Cunning Wish for that card is also gone.

In all honestly, though, I don’t think either of these decks will see much play after the rotation, but the pieces are still there for a fine combo deck; loads of mana acceleration, mana fixing, Impulse-like effects. Dragonstorm, perhaps? Not unthinkable.

The Verdict: Passably playable (Desire), Dead (Ideal),

Key Losses: Orim’s Chant, Counterspell, Fire/Ice

Ow. Three of the best targets for Isochron Scepter, most notably the no-turn-for-you Orim’s Chant, are gone. Could the deck be retooled, concentrating on burn? Lightning Helix and Magma Jet are inviting targets — but then you just have a clunky Scepter-Zoo deck. This deck might work without the versatile Fire/Ice, maybe without Counterspell, but losing the Orim’s Chant/Scepter combo is essentially the end of the deck.

Verdict: Dead

U/G Tron
Key Losses: Moment’s Peace

Losing a reusable Fog is nothing to sneeze at, but given its impressive recent results, I see no reason why this deck won’t stay in the Tier 1 slot. The Moment’s Peace slot could be filled by Wall of Roots or Vine Trellis, perhaps, or Remand might fit that slot nicely. Extirpate is problematic, but assuming there’s less graveyard hate in the new rotation, that allows the Loam engine to operate unmolested.

Should U/G Tron stumble, U/W Tron is there to pick up the baton of the Urzatron, with access to a Force Spike reprint, Exalted Angel, Wrath of God, and Decree of Justice, and should be just as playable. No Destructive Flow to worry about, either.

Verdict: Keep it in your testing gauntlet

Gaea’s Might Get There/Domain Zoo
Key Losses: Grim Lavamancer, Vindicate, Gaea’s Might, Terminate, Meddling Mage, Armadillo Cloak

On the bright side, Tribal Flames, being Timeshifted, sticks around. Losing both Terminate and Vindicate takes a lot of the board-clearing, Tarmogoyf-killing removal out of the environment. No longer can the deck play aggressive one and two drops and back that up with removal spells. And Gaea’s Might’s absence takes away a good chunk of the clock the deck could create.

I think the best examples for this deck to look to for retooling are the three-color beatdown decks from Ravnica/Kamigawa Standard, filling the decklist out with Watchwolf, Silver Knight, maindeck Kataki, War’s Wage (mark my words, should Affinity roar back, this guy will be very popular) and, as a potential replacement for Terminate, Temporal Isolation (if keeping Black to power out Dark Confidant, Smother, or Terror are also considerations, but who packs maindeck enchantment removal?)

Verdict: As long as there’s fetchlands and Ravnica duals, this deck will be playable in some fashion

Aggro Loam
Key Losses: Burning Wish, Devastating Dreams, Terravore

A victim of much of the anti-graveyard hate during much of the last season, perhaps it will be poised for a return?


Losing Devastating Dreams just kills the deck. No more Wrath / Geddon / Loam fodder in one neat package. I think you could build something similar with Countryside Crusher and Life from the Loam… but it wouldn’t be AggroLoam as we know it.

Verdict: Dead

We’ve seen the mostly dead… now we have the completely dead, decks that have seen their time in the sun and are now to be retired, either permanently or to survive again in the Eternal ranks, having lost flagship cards — or the entire deck — to rotation. No miracle pill can save these archetypes.

U/G Madness
Key Losses: Wild Mongrel, Aquamoeba, Arrogant Wurm, Roar of the Wurm Wonder, Circular Logic, Careful Study, Basking Rootwalla

You now have a deck with 22 lands. Good luck with that.

U/G Threshold
Key Losses: Nimble Mongoose, Wonder, Mental Note, Careful Study, Werebear, Centaur Garden, Cephalid Coliseum


Balancing Tings
Key Losses: Balancing Act, Invasion sac lands, Terravore

No longer has Balancing or Tings.

Destructive Flow
Key Losses: Destructive Flow

D-Flow without D-Flow is just a bad Rock deck.

Cephalid Breakfast
Key Losses: Cephalid Illusionist, Living Wish

Not like this deck was being played much anymore as it was.

Key Losses: Psychatog, Fact or Fiction, Opt, Counterspell, Force Spike, Chainer’s Edict

I thought Psychatog — or, at least, its style of U/B control — might be salvageable with cards like Tombstalker, Guiltfeeder, or Scalpalexis. But no. Gone is all the card drawing. Gone is most of the creature removal. Gone are the counterspells. Fare thee well, Dr. Teeth, see you in Vintage.

Key Losses: Draco, Fire/Ice

No Draco, no boom.

Squirrel-Opposition, Elf-Opposition and Every Other Kind of Opposition
Key Losses: Opposition, Squirrel’s Nest

Static Orb is gone too, so no shenanigans with that card either. Intruder Alarm is still around, so it’s possible that U/G Elf-based decks built around that card might make a splash.

I think that just about does it, but I’m sure I forgot something in that massive list. Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I six months too early with these guesstimates?

Guess we’ll find out in October.