Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #174 – Surviving the Ultimate Extended Tourney

The Ultimate Extended Tournament began with 32 great Extended decks — including five from the season just ended. It is down to eight (or so), and these are playing it out. Can any of the modern decks compete with the best of 1999, or 2002, or the decks from PT Tinker? We are answering those questions.

The Ultimate Extended Tournament began with 32 great Extended decks — including five from the season just ended. It is down to eight (or so), and these are playing it out. Can any of the modern decks compete with the best of 1999, or 2002, or the decks from PT Tinker? We are answering those questions.

Let’s recap the rules: 32 decks. Random first round pairings. Single elimination — but best of five game matches to limit the effect of lucky draws. Two games are played unsideboarded, with each deck playing first once. Post sideboard, if a deck is 0-2, it plays first, otherwise the decks alternate again. First deck to three wins takes the match — unless we decide afterwards that a player made a serious mistake that we didn’t catch at the time. A match in a tournament like this should never be decided on a brain fart.

I have written about this tournament in my last half dozen or so articles. Check out my archives for more info and match coverage.

I was going to cover the Elite Eight, but we still have some undecided matches from round 2 — and one from round 1. We had a lot of controversy in the forums over a couple matches: JarGrim versus PT Junk and Survival versus George W. Bosh. Let’s handle JarGrim first.

JarGrim is very powerful combo deck. PT Junk is a metagame killer — lots of disruption and a few undercosted threats held together with solid tutoring. The match comes down to Jargrim needing to go off through the disruption, while Junk needs to play enough disruption while also beating for the win. The tradeoff is tricky — and mulligan skill is critical. The matchup is further complicated because the JarGrim sideboard was found late, and sideboarding JarGrim is highly controversial. People who are expert with JarGrim — and its Vintage equivalents — feel JarGrim should win. I am probably more familiar with PT Junk, having played variants of it in playtesting back in the day, and variants in casual and multiplayer in later years, but when I play PT Junk, junk wins.

The matches are close. Very close. Close enough that minor errors sway the results. However, I have played this match many times now, against several opponents, and playing both sides myself. When I play Junk, Junk wins.

However, in the off chance that the outcome may be being influenced by play & sideboarding errors, I am going to advance both decks. I am also going to advance them both past Legion Land Loss, as well, and match them up against Academy. I wrote about PT Junk beating LLL. I have no doubt JarGrim can as well, since it runs off artifact mana. LLL can destroy lands like crazy, but JarGrim can go off on one land.

I just hope that the results of Junk versus Academy and JarGrim versus Academy are somehow decisive. We’ll know next week.

Here are the results as of this week. Coverage of the Survival matches follows.

Enchantress Enchantress Trix
UW Tron
Trix Trix
Twiddle / Desire
Stasis Stasis High Tide
GobVantage High Tide
High Tide
Maher Oath Maher Oath Maher Oath
Angry Ghoul
Turboland Beat Stick
Beat Stick
Benzo The Clock Supergro
The Clock
SuperGro SuperGro
Legion Land Loss Legion Land Loss Jar Grim and PT Junk
Jar Grim Both, see above
PT Junk
RDW2k RDW2K Academy
Aggro Loam
Academy Academy
Cephalid Life
Gaea’s Might Get There Pandeburst Counterslivers
Counterslivers Counterslivers
Free Spell Necro Balancing Tings Survival (yes, Survival)
Balancing Tings
George W. Bosh Survival

Round 1: GB Survival unelects George W. Bosh

In the forums last week, I got a number of comments about the outcomes of certain matches. I discussed JarGrim above. People also keep demanding a recount of the GB Survival versus George W. Bosh matchup, because they 1) feel we sideboarded incorrectly and 2) they can’t believe that George W. can lose. Okay, I have now recounted and replayed this matchup many times. Survival not only can win, but does win. Yes, Tinker is a broken tutor that had to be banned. So is Survival of the Fittest — and Survival was banned first. More importantly, if you are tutoring more than four times a game with Tinker, you are using another banned card or cheating. If I am not tutoring with Survival far more than four times a game, I’m either doing something wrong or I’ve won already.

People also claim my GB Survival deck is bad. That’s not the case. It is based on Sol Malka‘s GB Survival deck, with a few tweaks to handle the Trix metagame. Sol Malka won with his version, a lot, and when Survival was banned, he modified it into another GB control deck you may have heard of — called The Rock. Both decks have the same basic control elements.

All successful Survival decks combine tutor / silver bullet strategies with control elements. Tradewind Survival has a Tradewind Rider lock, coupled with 6-8 counters (a mix of Counterspell, Arcane Denial and Force of Will.) Full English Breakfast has a bunch of bizarre combos involving Volrath’s Shapeshifter, plus six counters. GB Survival has a set of lock elements, and eight disruption cards (4 Wasteland, 4 Duress.) Don’t doubt that Wasteland and Duress are control elements: I think they are, along with Force of Will, the three most important non-banned cards in this tournament. (And I’ll write a strategy piece covering that in detail once the tournament ends.)

Survival decks also have Survival of the Fittest, which — when combined with Squee and Krovikan Horror – may be the best tutor ever printed. Seriously, the best there is.

Because people asked, here are the decklists:

GB Survival

4 Bayou
4 Wasteland
5 Swamp
10 Forest

4 Duress
4 Survival of the Fittest
2 Vampiric Tutor
2 Recurring Nightmare
1 Oath of Ghouls

4 Wall of Roots
4 Birds of Paradise
1 Quirion Ranger
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Krovikan Horror
1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
1 Phyrexian Negator
1 Masticore
1 Deranged Hermit
2 Spike Feeder
2 Spike Weaver
1 Bone Shredder
1 Elvish Lyrist
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Yavimaya Ants
1 Cartographer

3 Emerald Charm
2 Ebony Charm
1 Oath of Ghouls
1 Thrull Surgeon
1 Carrion Beetles
1 Woodripper
1 Uktabi Orangutan
1 Dust Bowl
1 Simian Grunts
1 Bone Shredder
1 Elvish Lyrist
1 Living Death

George W. Bosh
Rickard Osterberg, Winner — PT: New Orleans

4 Ancient Tomb
3 City of Brass
4 City of Traitors
2 Great Furnace
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Shivan Reef

1 Bosh, Iron Golem
4 Goblin Welder
1 Pentavus
1 Platinum Angel
1 Masticore
4 Metalworker

2 Chromatic Sphere
1 Citanul Flute
1 Gilded Lotus
4 Grim Monolith
3 Lightning Greaves
1 Mindslaver
4 Tangle Wire
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Tinker
3 Voltaic Key

3 Defense Grid
1 Elf Replica
1 Mindslaver
3 Rack and Ruin
2 Shattering Pulse
1 Triskelion
4 Welding Jar

I have read a number of comments and emails in which people seem to believe that GB Survival is the beatdown in this matchup. That is not true. GW Bosh wins by beating down with creatures, while it is the Survival deck that is most likely to get a lock that prompts a concession. Bosh can get explosive starts that can do incredible things, but those effects only win if Bosh can actually draw one of the cards that win games. Those cards include Masticore, Bosh, Platinum Angel and Pentavus — or Tinker or Citanul Flute to get one of those.

Mindslaver does not count.

Mindslaver is only a “sort of” or conditional win condition — GW Bosh also has to draw the Pentavus to establish a lock. A single Mindslaver cannot badly hurt Survival. A couple turns of being Mindslavered can’t hurt either, unless Survival sides in cards like Carrion Beetles or Ebony Charm to eat graveyard cards, or leaves in Elvish Lyrist to disenchant Survival. At best, it can kill all its own creatures, waste it’s duals and tap itself out — but Bosh still needs to have something to win during those turns. Once the Mindslaver turns end, Survival can generally get back into action quickly, since Survival is likely to be in play and Squee will be in hand or in the graveyard. In any case, Bosh needs to draw one of those five win conditions or Tinker, and it has only Thirst for Knowledge to dig for them. Survival has Vampiric Tutor and the amazing Survival.

If games go long, the advantage is all with Survival.

Here’s a typical game, which shows how this match tends to play out. Bosh was on the play; neither deck mulliganed.

Bosh: Ancient Tomb, Grim Monolith, Voltaic Key, Metalworker, go

Survival: Swamp, Duress (taking Tinker, leaving City of Brass and Tangle Wire)
Bosh: CoB, beat for one, go (Too early for Tangle Wire)
Survival: Bayou, Wall of Roots, Birds of Paradise, go
Bosh: Lightning Greaves, greaves Metalworker, Tangle Wire, Tangle Wire, go.
Survival: (tap everything to Wire), Forest, Wall of Roots. (note: Wall of Roots is great against Tangle Wire — it provides mana even while tapped.)
Bosh: tap 6 permanents (2 Wires, Tomb, Greaves, Metalworker, Key) play Great Furnace
Survival: tap everything to Tangle Wire. Play Survival off the Walls.
Bosh: tap 2 Wires, Greaves, Metalworker, play Platinum Angel, greaves Angel beat for 4. (Survival survivals Cartographer for Squee, Squee for Woodripper EoT.)
Survival: tap everything (floating mana of Forest), return Squee, survival Squee for Krovikan Horror, Horror for Spike Weaver (a random creature), Spike Weaver for Wall of Roots, play Wasteland and Wall of Roots. return Horror EoT
Bosh: tap Wires, beat for 4, Welder, Greaves Welder, go (return Horror EoT)
Survival: return Squee, tap 2 Walls for Wire, play Forest. Survival now has 10 mana: 3 Walls, Birds, 6 lands. Play Krovikan Horror. Play Woodripper. Remove 2 Woodripper counters to kill the Greaves, then the Angel, then sacrifice Woodripper to Krovikan Horror to kill the Welder.
Bosh: (Tangle Wire die) City of Traitors. (Bosh’s hand is empty) (Survival Squee for Uktabi Orangutan EoT)
Survival: return Squee, waste City of Brass, cast Recurring Nightmare, sacrifice a Wall of Roots w/ 4 counters to recur Cartographer, get Wasteland, play Wasteland, waste Great Furnace, beat with Horror, survival for Deranged Hermit.
Bosh: Play Bosh.
Survival: Survival for Birds, Birds, (Survival needs more black mana), Recurring Nightmare, sacrifice Cartographer for Woodripper, remove counters to kill Bosh, Voltaic Key, Metalworker. (Bosh now has Ancient Tomb, City of Traitors and a tapped Monolith in play.)
Bosh: desperation time: don’t untap Monolith, draw Chromatic Sphere, play and blow it for blue, Tinker (sacrificing the Monolith), Pentavus. (Survival : survival for Birds EoT)
Survival: Uktabi Orangutan to kill Pentavus, beat with Horror, Recurring Nightmare to swap Uktabi for Cartographer, waste Ancient Tomb, play Birds.
Bosh: nothing. (drew a land)
Survival: beat with Cartographer & Horror, Recurring Nightmare sacrificing Cartographer for Deranged Hermit, Recurring Nightmare sacrificing the Hermit for Cartographer, get wasteland, waste City of Traitors.

Bosh conceded, but this game was over next turn in any case. Survival would have brought back the Hermit, beat with the four 2/2 Squirrels from last turn and the Horror, then threw squirrels at the opponent’s head. If the game had continued, Recurring Nightmare would have enabled Survival to kill lands, multiple artifacts and several creatures every turn. Survival could also have tutored every turn, and still got its normal draw every turn as well. When it reaches this point, Survival can keep any opposing deck at zero permanents, and it can only really lose to deckling itself.

Bosh can get the insane starts with a turn one Bosh plus Lightning Greaves games, where you win on turn two or three, but that requires a god draw. If Bosh does not get the god draw, then it has problems dealing a full 20 before Survival’s disruption kicks in. Tangle Wire helps, but Wall of Roots trumps Tangle Wire in this matchup.

GB Survival does win this one. Broken and banned with a moderate clock does not beat broken and banned with Duress, Wasteland and a faster clock.

Survival unbalances Balancing Tings

I described the Balancing Tings deck in some detail in prior weeks. It is basically a Balancing Act with a ton of special additions, including even the Erratic Explosion / Draco combo. Here’s the decklist:

Balancing Tings
Shingo Kurihara, Second — GP: Singapore 2007

4 Geothermal Crevice
2 Sulfur Vent
4 Archaeological Dig
4 Tinder Farm
4 Ancient Spring
4 Irrigation Ditch
2 Vesuva

4 Terravore
1 Draco

1 Erratic Explosion
3 Fire / Ice
4 Insidious Dreams
4 Terrarion
4 Lotus Bloom
3 Balancing Act
3 Remand
2 Chromatic Star

3 Burning Wish
3 Orim’s Chant
1 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Extirpate
1 Mana Short
1 Obliterate
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Duress
1 Pyroclasm
2 Moment’s Peace
1 Krosan Grip
2 Seedtime
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Balancing Act

The GB Survival decklist is above. While I have played this matchup several times (because I’m sure I’ll get a lot of flak), I’ll play it once again, this time with full coverage.

Game 1: Survival is on the play, Tings mulligans once.

Survival: Forest, Birds
Tings: Tinder Farm, go
Survival: Forest, Wall of Roots
Tings: Geothermal Crevice, Terrarion
Survival: Yavimaya Ants, beat for 5
Tings: Irrigation Ditch,
Survival: pay upkeep, (Tings: Chant with kicker via Terrarion) Vampiric for Wasteland in response, waste Tinder Farm.
Tings: Suspend Lotus Blossom
Survival: pay upkeep, Bayou, beat for 5, Quirion Ranger
Tings: Sensei’s Top, activate top, draw with top, Archeological Dig, go
Survival: Wasteland, Waste Tinder Farm, Quirion Ranger, Spike Feeder
Tings: Sensei’s Divining Top, stack deck w/ top
Survival: Forest, Spike Feeder, move a counter onto active Feeder, use Ranger to untap Birds, move counter, beat for 5.
Tings concedes.

Game 2: Tings on the play, no mulligans

Tings: Irrigation Ditch
Survival: Wasteland, waste ditch (Without a Forest, Birds opening, T1 Wasteland is better. It is like a restart, but Cartographer makes it far better.)
Tings: Tinder Farm
Survival: Bayou, Duress (seeing Top, Balancing Act, Chromatic Star, Insidious Dreams, Fire // Ice, Irrigation Ditch; take Top)
Tings: Farm, Star
Survival: Quirion Ranger, Wasteland, waste Ditch
Tings: Sulfur Vent
Survival: beat, tap Bayou, bounce with Ranger, play Bayou, Wall of Roots
Tings: blow Chromatic, Fire//Ice to kill Quirion Ranger (Survival is stuck on one land.)
Survival: Survival, go
Tings: Tinder Vent (Survival Squee for Wall of Roots EoT)
Survival: Wall of Roots, Survival Deranged Hermit for Birds of Paradise
Tings: Archeological Digs, Insidious Dreams for Chromatic Star, Terravore, Lotus (Act in hand) (Survival survivals like mad EoT)
Survival: Cartographer, Wasteland, waste Tinder Farm
Tings: Star, Act to clear the board.
Survival: Forest, go
Tings: suspend Lotus Blossom
Survival: Swamp, go
Tings: go
Survival: Wasteland, go
Tings: go (Survival: Vampiric for Recurring Nightmare EoT)
Survival: Recurring Nightmare, go
Tings: Ancient Springs, go.
Survival: Elvish Lyrist, Recur it for Deranged Hermit
Tings: play Lotus, Terravore.
Survival: don’t pay echo, (Tings: Chant, no kicker, on upkeep), beat for 3 (one Squirrel dies), go
Tings: Terrarion, beat
Survival: beat for three, Recurring Nightmare, sac squirrel to recur Bone Shredder to kill Terravore
Tings: go
Survival: don’t pay echo for Shredder, beat, Recurring Nightmare (Tings: blow Springs & Terrarion for Remand — otherwise Nightmare would get Cartographer and Wasteland and kills Springs anyway.)
Tings: suspend Lotus Blossom, Geo. Crevice, go (Survival can do better than Cartographer into Wasteland, if Tings doesn’t play a land.)
Survival: beat for two, Nightmare, Cartographer, Wasteland, waste Crevice, go
Tings: Springs, go
Survival: Bayou, Duress (taking Orim’s Chant), Nightmare, swap Cartographer for Hermit, beat
Tings: suspend another Blossom, lose.

Sideboarding: Getting the Draco / Explosion combo to work seems unlikely, and since Survival does not damage itself with pain lands, that combo will not win. Tings takes out those cards, plus one Nostalgic Dreams (best used to set up Draco Explosion — and marginally worse than Burning Wish) and two Orim’s Chants for Extirpate, Ray of Revelation, Tormod’s Crypts and one Moment’s Peace. (I also played this with the Nostalgic Dreams back and the Moment’s Peaces out — no real difference.)

Survival takes out the Spike Weavers and an Elvish Lyrist for a Dustbowl, another Bone Shredder and the Thrull. (And Survival is so sad that nothing better was in the original decklists.) Oath of Ghouls is really tempting, but because Balancing Act kills enchantments, too, it stays out.

Game 3, Tings on the play:

Tings: Ditch
Survival: Forest, Birds
Tings: Vent, Terrarion
Survival: Bayou, Phyrexian Negator
Tings: Crevice, Fire Negator (Icing it seemed worse — Tings was laying lands to build up to Dreams, Act and needed time more than cards. Killing two thirds of Survival’s Mana before turn three was better than stopping 5 damage and drawing an unneeded card.)
Survival: Forest, beat
Tings: Crevice, Star
Survival: Duress (take Dreams)
Tings: blow two lands, Star, Terravore
Survival: go
Tings: blow land, blow Star, Terravore #2
Survival: lose

Basically, losing the two lands to Fire/Ice meant that Survival could never cast either the Bone Shredder or Recurring Nightmare that would have won the game.

Game 4, Survival on the play. Both decks mulliganed almost identical hands twice (first hand for both decks was one land and junk, second hand was five lands, junk)

Survival: Forest
Tings: suspend Blossom, Arch. Dig., Terrarion
Survival: Swamp, Survival
Tings: go
Survival: Bayou, Negator, go
Tings: Tinder Farm,
Survival: Bayou, Survival Cartographer for Horror, Horror for Squee, Squee for Wall of Roots, play Wall(return Horror EoT)
Tings: blow Terrarion to Fire Negator (sac Forest, Swamp) Survival Horror for Yavimaya Ants.
Survival: forest, Ants, beat for 10.
Tings: Ditch, blow Blossom for Terravore, blow lands for Terravore #2 (survival Squee for Bone Shredder EoT)
Survival: pay upkeep on Ants, play Wasteland, Bone Shredder to kill Terravore, beat for the win.

Yes, Survival wins. I have played this match out a number of times. The results are close — maybe 60-40 — but in Survival’s favor.

I will discuss this more in future articles, but Magic is not just about having your deck do its thing. Magic has two (or more) players. Magic is about having your deck do its thing, despite what your opponent is doing. Disrupting your opponent is critical, and the flip side is to be able to continue to play your game even while being disrupted. GB Survival is very tolerant of disruption: if it gets Survival on track, great. If not, it has tutoring and lots of alternative methods of proceeding (e.g. topdeck beatdown.) George W. Bosh is blisteringly fast, but does not have a lot of actual kill cards. That makes it vulnerable to disruption — and that’s how Survival beats it. Balancing Tings has an amazingly effective win condition in Act / Terravore, but it has no disruption (aside from 3 Remand), and its mana is shaky. Again, that’s what makes it vulnerable.

Here’s another way to compare the decks.

Kills: all of the decks beat down with hugely undercosted creatures. Terravore, Bosh, Deranged Hermit and Phyrexian Negator are all great beaters with low mana costs. The Bosh deck adds Mindslaver, and Tings adds Erratic Explosion, but Survival has more beaters. In short, all three are about equal in the threat department.

Disruption: Survival has some of the best disruption cards ever printed in Wasteland and Duress. Tings has great “disruption” in Balancing Act — but Act is slow. Bosh has no significant disruption.

Card drawing and tutoring: Tings has a lot of cantrips (e.g. Chromatic Star), and Burning Wish, These are good, but not broken. Bosh has Thirst for Knowledge and Tinker — and Tinker is a tutor so broken WotC banned it. Survival has Vampiric Tutor and Survival — a tutor that was not only so broken that it was banned, but a banned tutor that can be used twice a turn, every turn, all game.

And that’s why Survival wins.

I’m looking forward to the CounterSlivers / GB Survival matchup. I know how it is supposed to play out. This is an extract from an old PTQ report on the Dojo.

Semifinals: Matt Severa, Slivers.

I apparently had the cut of death going. Matt mulliganed twice. I Wasted his early lands, but had just a mana bird and a wall on my side. Finally, he drew Consult, and when I waste his Gemstone Mine, he consulted for City of Brass. He then topdecked a second City, and a third. I drew a few threats, and he countered them. He got a Crystalline and Muscle into play, but was forced to keep them back to block. However, between the Cities and Force of Willing twice, he was reduced to 1 life. Seriously, he took 17 points of City damage before I could get a threat down. I think I finally managed to cast Krovikan Horror, then threw a wall at him for the win.

Game 2 he drew a better hand: no mulligans. I got a few random attacks through, but he played a Crystalline, Muscle and Winged on consecutive turns, and the combination beat me to almost nothing. To survive, I had to topdeck a Weaver and then draw a big threat, all while avoiding the counters and Swords and while keeping one mana free to fog. I didn’t even accomplish step one — draw the Weaver — so I lost.

Game 3: The cut of death struck again. Matt double mulliganed for the second time. I drew Wastelands and cast something that was beating in increments of 5 (Ingrid tells me it was a turn 2 or 3 Negator.) I pounded him down before the Slivers could get their act together.

Ingrid and I playtested this matchup extensively, back when we were seriously working to get on the tour. We agree that the matchup is 60-40. We just disagree on which deck is the 60, and which the 40.

Next time: Elite Eight match results. For all nine decks.


“one million words” on MODO

pete {dot} jahn {at} Verizon {dot} net