Worlds Extended – My Performance

By the time Extended rolled around, Worlds was over bar the shouting for poor Josh. Even though his lack of desire and unfortunate pairings led to a subpar personal performance on this third day, the deck he ran with was one of the breakout stars of the format – Dirty Kitty. Today he shares his thoughts on the deck, and looks at a number of other interesting creations that performed well in Paris.

As you probably know, the final day of Worlds was Extended. I only played two rounds on the day, losing both. Going into the event I had heard from Billy Moreno and Brian David Marshall, and later Mike Flores and Osyp – just about everyone I was involved with – that our deck was very good. Upon commencement of the limited testing I was able to perform, indeed the deck — and the deck it spawned from — both obviously were capable of obscene things. This is good, because Extended as a format is nothing like Standard. Playing fair is pointless because no one does it. The closest they come is playing Gifts-Rock, but in Extended that deck is still full of unfair cards, even if its strategy is fair.

Now, ordinarily I dislike playing combo decks. I don’t like playing decks that can lose to themselves, and if your deck is an aggro-combo deck it probably can’t buy time to set up or draw cards, leaving it to the opening seven cards to determine whether or not you will be able to win the game (or not.) Worse yet, the deck was Goblins. I had sworn off goblins in LA 2005, after playing them there to a dismal 4-4 record. Osyp similarly disliked goblins after playing them at the same tournament. Though his finish in the tournament was better, I’m sure the taste in his mouth was very similar.

Here’s the decklist. It should be credited to Billy Moreno and Brian David-Marshall for innovation.

So, as you can see, this isn’t your average goblin deck. Sure it can do the same thing goblins have been known to do — play Warchief, play Piledriver, attack for a lot early and often. That’s a one-dimensional strategy that the Mono-Red version of this deck – the predecessor, if you will – was also capable of. But, alone, that is not enough. The problems with the Mono-Red deck were that for all the awesomeness that is Seething Song, Rite of Flame, and Empty the Warrens, none of those cards are actually Goblins, and along with Chrome Mox — good with storm, mind — your Goblin Ringleaders miss a shocking amount of time. You can easily end up with weak draws that rely on a Ringleader to get you back into the game, and you lose because they reveal four non-Goblins. It sucks. I noted this as I tested the Mono-Red version of the deck against our version. It might seem silly to you, but we thought Mono-Red would be more popular and we felt our deck had a good or very good game against most of the other decks in the field, save Boros — I’ll get to that — but we wanted to have a good strategy for the mirror.

That’s where Clickslither came into play for the sideboard. With the qualifier season coming up I don’t think this decklist is a far cry from where you should start. I’d proxy it up, or build it, and start testing it. It isn’t easy to play (I’ll get to that too), so practice is important.

The sideboard has cards against control, combo, and creatures, though diluting your deck is very easy and needs to be something you are concerned with in any match. Most of the time you want to limit yourself to four cards. Against Boros, for example, our plan was to board out the two Brightstone Rituals, the Goblin Sledder, and the Goblin Sharpshooter. You’d bring in both Pyroclasms and two Clickslithers, and with a good draw you would more often than not come out ahead – but it’s close.

As I was saying, the deck itself may seem straightforward. Strategically, you need to be wary of your mulligans. It’s easy to recover from a mulligan, but a bad keep will have you reeling. Empty the Warrens is the most important card to draw, if you have it in your opening hand the rest can be pretty bad and still be a keeper. Similarly, if you have Prospector and Fecundity, and maybe a Mogg War-Marshal or a Goblin Matron, you should be in business before you know it, so hands like that are good. Because you don’t need much mana to get going, and none once you do (thanks to Prospector), having a lot of lands isn’t really useful. Heavy land hands should be mulliganed. Though I’d consider, if I knew the matchup, to keep one. Against Rock, for example, I might keep a six-card hand of four lands (one fetch), Fecundity, and a Goblin Matron. The reason being they can’t really beat Fecundity should you untap with it, and the Matron gets you a War-Marshal or a Prospector which should have you drawing cards and making mana, both getting back your initial investment while filling up your hand.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make in each game is to play Skirk Prospector. Against Boros you want to wait, because they can basically kill every creature you play. You need Prospector to “get going,” but as long as he’s the last Goblin out of your hand he will get his job done even if he is already scheduled to head to the yard.

To combo out you need Prospector, Fecundity, and Empty, and a storm count. Of course, once you cast the Empty the Warrens each goblin is worth a mana and a card – generally you’ll find War-Marshals, Matrons, Piledrivers, sideboard cards (should they be there) as well as additional Empty the Warrens. Once you find all of those and a Warchief (easier than it sounds) you can simply attack your opponent to death, or you can continue to search and find the lone Grapeshot, which completes the “combo” kill.

The deck also excels at the regular attacking aspect of the goblin deck. A hand of Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Goblin Warchief, Goblin Piledriver, a land and a War-Marshal has your opponent facing an active Warchief and Piledriver on turn 1, therefore at fifteen life. The next turn you can attack them down to 4, and that’s just a six-card hand that assumes you draw nothing else. It is very specific, but it isn’t uncommon that you win through attacking as early as turn 3. I think Billy reported winning two out of forty on turn 2 (through attacking, I believe.)

So, if nothing else, the deck was powerful. As I said, the matchups across the board were quite good. We assumed our opponents would be unaware of our strategy — and indeed they were. Sure, they might know about the Mono-Red Ringleader version… but tapping out and not expecting to instantly lose to a Fecundity-fueled combo would be a lot more common than if they happened to know what we were up to. Scepter-Chant, Psychatog, various Rocks, and average Blue/White Tron decks all seemed to be good matchups, though Tron’s turn 3 Wraths were problematic. The real troublesome matchup was Boros. It was like 55% in testing for game 1.

Their game wins came from dealing six or eight damage with their creatures and then burning you out. Their deck is utterly consistent, and they can and do achieve this “draw” (it isn’t a specific draw, so to speak) quite often. Your plan is to stockpile a hand of mana and Empty the Warrens, and hopefully Fecundity and or Prospector, while chumping with War-Marshal pieces. If your draw is good, they can’t stop you. If your draw is fast, they can’t stop you. If your draw is bad, they’ll probably beat you.

The problem with playing a deck that has ten “Dark Rituals” and no way to draw cards until you are already winning / have Fecundity in play is that you can easily get flooded. On paper the deck as 19 lands, but in reality it has 29 mana sources which means that you’re probably going to win once you do go off, but your draw steps after your opening seven might yield never-ending Brightstone Rituals. I am not trying to be overly negative about the deck; this was a concern I had in testing, it was a concern I raised at the beginning of the article, and it is a concern you should have should you decide to give the deck a try. But each coin has two sides, so on the other side, should you really want to draw Dark Rituals – as per the Boros strategy “stockpiling rituals” to feed a large Empty the Warrens – it isn’t impossible to do so.

I only played two rounds during the Extended portion of the tournament, as I dropped at 6-8 (0-2 on Day 3.)

In round 1 I played against Dave Irvine, who played a standard Blue/White Tron deck. I knew what he was playing and he know not only what I was playing, but how to play against it, as he was sleeping in our room and had tested against Osyp the night before. We both knew how important the die roll was, and I won it at the start of the match. Game 1 was over in a hurry. He tapped out for a Signet on turn 2 and didn’t get a third turn. I remember that much, but not what the exact cards were. For each of the second and third games – presumably, as I don’t recall him changing his deck between 2 and 3 – he had boarded in his extra Wraths (only started with two), Condemns, and Repeals. In game 2 he had lots and lots of these cards, but no Fact or Fictions. So we one-for-oned each other for a while as both of our hands were pretty bad. (I had mulliganed once on the draw, opting — probably incorrectly — to take my chances on a hand that could get there, but didn’t.) He eventually got out Triskelion with Academy Ruins and crushed me. In game 3 my hand seemed good – I know I had early Cabal Therapy action. I named Remand and hit on turn 1. He had a Hallowed Fountain in play, and his hand definitely included two unique Tron pieces, Thirst for Knowledge, Memory Lapse, Wrath of God and another card. From there I played a turn 2 War-Marshal, which he Lapsed. I ran it again on turn 3 and he allowed it, so I attempted to flash the Therapy back, and he Lapsed that. He Thirsted after my draw had petered out, finding another Thirst, completing his Tron and finding Academy Ruins to get back the Sundering Titan he had discarded. Since I had Therapied this game, you know the Sundering Titan killed all of my lands. It wasn’t pretty.

This was not an auspicious start, and over the last three rounds of play at the tournament I had lost all three.

Round 2 I played against Gatica, Miguel ™ [CRI]. He was friendly and our match started without any problems. I suspected him to be playing Boros, not because of any one thing but certainly after watching two Boros decks square off in the match next to us last round, and, seeing Boros on just about every table in the room, and having lost round 1 of the day, I felt there was a good chance that my 6-7 opponent would be Boros. I mulliganed, but to be honest I don’t remember the specifics of the match too well. I recall that game 1 was not at all close – my mulligan hand was not good enough and I never drew Fecundity. I had to make a last-ditch effort at chumping, though he still had Silver Knight. I played an Empty for four or six, but it was for naught as he had more than enough burn to finish me off. Game 2 my hand was better, but not good enough. Pyroclasm may have been a one-for-one in the early turns, but his Silver Knight kept pounding away while my deck did not deliver. He crushed me, revealing overload burn to kill me should I have had a way to gain life.

After this, I dropped from the tournament.

Was this a good choice for the tournament? I don’t think so. Could we have anticipated the amount of Boros people chose to play? Well, maybe. I know that for a time on Magic Online Boros was super-popular. I know that Boros decks have been continually inbred in order to beat each other as best they can. I’ve seen cards like Mystic Crusader (an Odyssey Rare that you may or may not be familiar with). I’ve seen Pyrite Spellbombs just because it can kill a Silver Knight; people with sideboards full of anti Protection-from-Red creatures and Umezawa’s Jittes. Boros is definitely popular online; I don’t think it’s as popular as it was, but maybe I’m wrong.

If you look here you can get a feel for what the format was like. Indeed, there are many Boros decks listed there, among other things. A resurgence of Ichorid, a few other combo decks, someone playing Durkwood Baloth in their Balancing Act deck; a smattering of Scepter / Chant and Psychatog; well, the format is pretty wide open still, but for a PTQ I do think that a practiced player would succeed with the deck in the early weeks.

I don’t think the deck impacted the format enough for people to dedicate Engineered Plague to their sideboard, and even after this is posted I think that will remain the case. I don’t think you’ll have the drop, so to speak, but they probably won’t be able to completely close you out with their sideboard.

Having been out of the tournament with four rounds to go I had a chance to watch a few feature matches before anyone else had dropped. I got to see perhaps the most interesting deck in the tournament — in any format. The deck the French played… well, some of them.

Beyond Bastian’s 5-0-1 I am not sure how well the other plays fared or why they lost. I got to see the deck in action in a feature match. Reshaping Lotus Bloom into play is one of the coolest things I saw all week as far as Magic was concerned. Having the ability to generate limited but plentiful mana, and then repeat the process by Mystical Teachings for Second Sunrise repeatedly, and then eventually Brain Freezing (and Coliseuming, if necessary) is just cool. Not only is it cool, but it’s also probably very fun to play, as you seem to generate a lot of velocity with tons of cantrips and deck manipulation. Using cards like Second Sunrise in ways they had not been used before is always a bonus.

Fun Fact: R&D Does Not Test Extended.

In all honesty, the Extended Mind’s Desire deck might just be a better choice than Goblins for any tournaments you have to play in. It can win on turn 3 just the same as Goblins, but it doesn’t suffer from a terrible matchup against Boros – I’d imagine it’s quite the opposite. I haven’t played the deck seriously, but I’d imagine it will do quite well at the upcoming PTQs and Grand Prix tournaments.

Here’s the decklist.

Fairly simple – Chromatic Star fixes one Ritual into another, (Cabal Ritual plus Chromatic Star can cast Seething Song, as well as the other way around). It increases your storm count and lets you cast Careful Study. You can easily win without Mind’s Desire, simply through a combination of Tendrils, Sins, and Burning Wish action. Channel the Suns in the sideboard was described to me as the most wished-for sideboard card, because it’s a “Ritual that makes Blue mana.” Indeed, it is four for five, and you do net a Blue; it’s a card I wasn’t expecting to see.

Here’s another version of the deck that was similarly successful. This one opts for fewer lands and more artifacts, as you can see. It also has maindeck Channel the Suns (I guess I was just behind on this). Infernal Tutor and Plunge into Darkness make very good tutors for a deck like this, and I suspect the addition of Orim’s Chant to the sideboard was very good for the players of this deck, Raph included, through the day.

All in all, Extended is a good format right now. I think the latter two decks I spoke about (briefly) will become large in the upcoming season, and I think that you’d be doing yourself a service to play with the decks. To get a feel for the decisions they make from turn to turn, what kind of hands they are keeping, etc. Then, go ahead and decide what deck you want to play. With the knowledge of how these decks play out it will be that much easier for you to figure out your own strategy to defeat them, be it with one of the decks in this article, or perhaps a deck like U/W/R Angel, or even some modified Boros Strategy (though I don’t recommend it.)

In any case, good luck to you all, and thanks for reading.

Josh Ravitz