Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #199: Whither Extended?

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Pro Tour: Valencia is over. The results are in. Where does Extended go from here? What does Lorwyn do to the format? Should we care — and is it worth the price? Let’s look at some numbers…

Pro Tour Valencia is over. The results are in. Where does Extended go from here? What does Lorwyn do to the format? Should we care – and is it worth the price? Let’s look at some numbers.

A Note: I had intended to write about something a bit more relevant, but some idiot cut a fiber optic cable and took out Internet service to my local area. Internet was either gone or very spotty for – well, this is going on the fifth day. I have also had conflicts that prevented any in-person playtesting. That left play by mail – which was okay for chess, but never has worked for Magic. (On the plus side, my new deck hasn’t lost yet – and I just mailed turn 2.)

The best news from PT: Valencia is that the format is incredibly diverse. We have not seen this wide a spectrum of decks since Bob Maher won PT: Chicago late last century. Here’s how the Top 32 broke down.

Enduring Ideal: 4 (3 w/ Draco)
Goblins: 4
Domain Zoo (including Dark Domain): 3
Chase Rare Control: 3
UW Tron: 2
Gifts Rock: 2
Cephalid Breakfast: 2
Scepter Chant: 2
UG Tron: 1
Flow Rock: 1
GBW Rock: 1
Goyf Affinity: 1
Heartbeat Desire: 1
Tog w/ Goyf: 1
UBG Control: 1
RGB Aggro: 1

Even the decks that I lumped together are not identical. Take, for example, the two UW Tron decks. Shuuhei Nakamura’s build has nine creatures maindeck, Makihito Mihara’s has just one. The domain decks run from traditional Gaea’s Might Get There builds to the version with Dark Confidant and Vindicate. Even the Enduring Ideal decks vary widely.

This is an amazingly healthy format.

It is not a particularly relevant format.

Paper Magic has already moved on. Lorwyn is legal in Paper Extended effective October 20th, and Lorwyn will have to have an impact. The PT format still survives on MTGO, but only for a while. Lorwyn will appear online, soon, and it will change the format. Until then, play it while you can.

If you can afford it.

Extended is an expensive format. It is also a format that may, or may not, be worth the investment. Let’s look at this.

The first question is whether the format – with Lorwyn – will be played again. At the moment, we don’t know. In the past, the PTQ season in December & January, or, more recently, January & February, has been Extended, feeding the Block Constructed Pro Tour in late spring. That may happen. It may not. Wizards has not set the schedule for next year. I don’t know whether Extended will be the format or not.

I do know where the PT will occur – I overheard that at San Diego. That isn’t public, so I can’t say, but that’s not helpful anyway. The question is what, not where.

Traditionally, Constructed Pro Tours have showcased formats that were about to change, due to the release of a new set. PT: Valencia is a perfect example: it’s pre-Lorwyn Extended. In the past, the later winter PTQs have been Constructed, feeding a Constructed Pro Tour in April or May. The May /April PT Constructed format has been Block – but a Block format about to change because of the release of the third set in the block. Next year, however, we won’t have a three set block. The new set which will be released about Tour time will be “Jelly” – the “main” set in the Jelly / Donut “block.”

If the PTQs in January are Constructed, what Constructed format would the Pro Tour feature? It won’t be Block Constructed, unless Peanut / Butter / Jelly is going to be treated as a block format for the PTQs. Seems unlikely. Standard? I think I could make a better argument for having a Limited Pro Tour right after the release of Jelly, so that the PT would be the first chance for anyone to draft the set. That would shift any Constructed Pro Tour to some other time – and that means it could be any format. Standard? Two Headed Giant Constructed (which is a totally stupid format, but it’s not impossible)? Legacy? It could be anything, which means that the qualifiers could be anything. I think an Extended PTQ season is likely – it is a very popular format – but it is not a given.

If the format is not played as a PTQ format, you need to think about whether you want to invest in an Extended. It is an investment: I’ll talk about that.

If the format is not used for PTQs in the next year, it will be dead. Extended is scheduled to rotate this time next fall. Invasion block, Odyssey block, Onslaught block, and Seventh Edition will all leave the format. That’s a huge change.

I looked at the Top 8 decks from the Pro Tour and evaluated them in a number of ways. I looked at their cost, the effect of Lorwyn, the effect of the next rotation and more.

A quick note on costs. I used the retail price for slightly played paper cards from StarCityGames.com, and the price for online cards from MTGOTraders.com. I’ve written about this a lot before, but I’ll just say that both are reliable, mainstream online stores. They won’t have the cheapest cards available anywhere, but they will almost always have the cards, at a competitive price, and you won’t have to worry about slow delivery or being ripped off. Yes, you can find a lower price by shopping around, finding a kid who does not know what a card is worth, or whatever. In my experience, you will not find cards significantly cheaper unless you waste a lot of time hunting – and that time will be worth more than what you save.

Whatever – I used StarCityGames.com and MTGOTraders.com to price every card in each T8 deck. I did not factor in the 12% discount MTGOTraders applies to all PayPal orders – so actual online costs would be 12% less.

Even so, the prices are impressive.

I also looked at the differences between the cost of decks in paper and online. In paper, the biggest cost driver is Tarmogoyf, followed by the manabase. Online, it is the number of Invasion Block cards. Invasion is to online what Alpha and Beta are to paper – the sets that are in short supply, and therefore command very high prices.

Let’s look at the Top 8 decks.

The cost of this deck is about $675 online, or $650 in paper.

To show just how big an effect the online scarcity of Invasion has on costs, the cost of the Invasion Block cards – the four Vindicates – is $240 online. Invasion Block costs are 35.5% of the total. In the paper world, the Invasion Block cards cost about $50.00, and make up just 7.8% of the cost of the deck.

Tarmogoyf, by comparison, costs $29.00 online and $40.00, per copy, in paper. Tarmogoyfs make up 17.2% of the cost of the deck online, and 24.9% of the cost of the paper deck.

The manabases cost $175 online, and $242 in paper, making up 25.8% and 37.6% of the total cost respectively. I mention this only because new players and kids tend to be most upset about having to pay a ton for lands.

Wizards, are you reading this?

Lorwyn could bring this deck two significant new tools – Gaddock Teeg and Cashseize. Gaddock can serve as a slightly more in-color Meddling Mage for about half the cards that can beat this deck, while Cashseize will be very effective against the combo and control decks out there, and not dead against beatdown. Lorwyn does not seem to bring anything that wrecks this archetype (but I have not tested Lorwyn Extended much at all, so take that with a grain of salt).

Once Extended rotates, on the other hand, this deck is in trouble. It loses Vindicate, its best removal spell. More importantly, it loses its manabase. The Onslaught fetchlands will rotate out, meaning that we will have to do a lot more work to assemble the full domain. It is not impossible, but it will certainly be harder. On the plus side, very little of the deck’s threats will rotate – the main exception will be the Grim Lavamancers.

Next up is the current top deck online: Enduring Ideal.

The cost of this deck is about $715 online, or $365 in paper. Yes, it is almost twice as expensive online. Note all the Invasion block cards: Deed, Orim’s Chant, etc. Actually, it’s mainly the Chants: they cost $85 apiece online. Invasion Block cards make up a whooping 65.3% of the cost of the deck online. In the paper world, the Invasion Block cards cost about $100.00 and make up just 27.5% of the deck.

Since the deck has no Tarmogoyfs, they make up zero percent of the cost.

The manabase costs $90 online and $130 in paper, making up 12.6% and 35.7% of the total cost, respectively.

Cashseize and Gaddock Teeg will have an impact on this deck, but not necessarily a fatal one. Burning Wish for Pyroclasm is just as effective on Gaddock as it is on Meddling Mage, and Gaddock Teeg does nothing once Enduring Ideal has been cast. (Epic puts the spells on the stack, you do not actually play the copies.) One the other hand, this is a fairly tight combo deck, and both of those cards will have an impact. Gaddock Teeg plus a Meddling Mage naming Burning Wish is both a lock and a five-turn clock.

In short, test this a lot before you shell out the money for it.

Once Extended rotates, this loses its manabase. All of the sac lands (Tinder Farm and company) are rotating out. In fact, only six of the deck’s lands can be played once the rotation occurs. The deck will also lose the Orim’s Chants, the Deed, Solitary Confinement and some sideboard cards. It’s possible that Wizards will print replacements, but I would not bet on any of that.

Let’s move on to the first of the decks that I would love to play.

Tine Rus won his local PTQ, then Top 8ed the Pro Tour first time out. Must be nice.

The cost his deck is about $550 online, or $460 in paper.

There are only seven Invasion Block cards in his deck, but the cost of those cards is $267, or 47.9% of the whole. In the paper world, those cards cost $52.50, and make up just 11.4% of the cost.

Tarmogoyf, amazingly enough, is not present in the deck. At least, I cannot find it in the decklist. I have no idea why he did not run it.

The manabases cost $137.50 online, and $189.00 in paper, making up 24.7% and 41.2% of the total cost, respectively. I paid less than that for my first Black Lotus. Times have changed.

What effect will Lorwyn have? Well, this is a Rock deck. Rock decks love Duress and Cabal Therapy. They will want to replace at least the Duresses with Cashseize. Gaddock Teeg fits the color scheme better than Meddling Mage. Beyond that, Rock will morph slightly and survive – it always does.

Post rotation? Once again, it is a Rock deck. Rock will always be with us.

The next deck was the genesis of this article, in many ways. Once I heard BDM describe this as “Chase Rare Control,” I knew I wanted to look at the cost of decks. It has been interesting.

The cost of this deck is about $440 online, or $560 in paper. The deck does not use Invasion block cards. For a “chase rare” deck, it is surprisingly cheap.

It does run Tarmogoyf. Tarmogoyfs make up 26.4% of the cost of the deck online, and 28.5% of the cost of the paper deck.

The manabases cost about $135 online and $185 in paper, making up 30.5% and 33.1% of the total cost, respectively.

The costs are not excessive. These prices are almost balanced.

With Lorwyn in the mix, this deck will either still be playable, or it won’t. One or the other. (Wow, am I insightful!) The problem, of course, is that a control deck like this needs to be tuned to the rest of the metagame, and I don’t know what that will look like. I suspect that I would start my testing with this deck as a skeleton, but only testing will tell if you can flesh it out.

Post rotation, you will have to start from scratch. The deck will lose the fetchlands, and therefore its manabase. It will also lose Counterspell and Stifle. After that, it will have to bend itself to shape the current metagame. It might be easier to start from scratch.

The cost of this deck is about $800 online, or $545 in paper.

That’s a big difference. Think Invasion Block is to blame? Yup. Invasion Block cards total $480, or 60% of the cost of this deck online. In the paper world, Invasion cards cost just $94, or 17%. That’s a significant difference.

Tarmogoyf, by comparison, costs more in paper than online. Tarmogoyfs make up 14.5% of the cost of the deck online, and 29.4% of the cost of the paper deck.

The manabases cost $120 online, and $171 in paper, making up 15.0% and 31.4% of the total cost, respectively.

What I said about Rock decks above applies here.

Surprisingly enough, Affinity is probably the answer for the budget player. The cost of this deck is low: about $235 online, or $315 in paper. It has no Invasion Block cards.

It does have Tarmogoyfs. Tarmogoyfs make up just under half (49.6%) of the cost of the deck online, and just over half (50.8%) the cost of the paper deck.

The manabases are dirt cheap. The costs are about cost $25 online and in paper, making up 10.5% and 8.0% of the total cost, respectively.

Compared to other decks, Affinity is cheap. If you skip the Tarmogoyfs, it is very cheap. If you can stomach playing Affinity after all those years in Standard, then it is a decent entry into the format. It does not translate well: almost nothing you buy for Affinity will be playable in other decks, but the deck works. It will also probably work with Lorwyn, and it loses nothing to the rotation.

On the down side, it is still Affinity. I never have liked the deck.

Two different UW Tron decks made the Top 8 in Valencia. Here’s the first. It is the more expensive of the two, especially online. This version costs about $550 online, or but only $350 in paper. As you might expect, the difference is mainly the four Invasion Block Meddling Mages, which cost over $230 a set online. Invasion Block cards made up 42.4% of the online cost, but just 17.2% of the paper cost.

No Tarmogoyfs, which cuts the cost a lot.

The manabases are also amazingly cheap. The Tron parts are everywhere online, and they were commons in both Fifth Edition and Chronicles, so they are cheap in paper, too. The manabase costs about $80 both online and off.

This deck will need a lot of testing before I would play it in Extended with Lorwyn. A lot of the deck is unplayable once Gaddock Teeg hits play – and the deck features no removal that can kill him. Yet. Some of the win conditions are unaffected by Teeg, but others are stopped.

The Rotation, on the other hand, will clearly kill this deck, unless Wizards prints some help. The deck will lose Skycloud Expanse, which should scramble the manabase, plus a lot of the win conditions. Meddling Mage, Exalted Angel, and Decree of Justice will all rotate.

For comparison, take a look at Mihara’s deck.

This deck is a lot cheaper, since it avoids the Meddling Mages and other expensive goodness. Online, it costs about $265, in paper it cost $310. The manabases are dirt cheap, at $72 online and $78 in paper, and it runs neither Invasion Block cards nor Tarmogoyf.

On the down side, the deck will have just as much difficulty with Gaddock Teeg as the previous deck, and it has fewer win conditions. After the rotation, it will lose Decree of Justice, leaving one Sundering Titan and one Mindslaver as the only remaining methods of beating the opponent.

I have nearly all of this deck in my MTGO collection. I will have to build this deck and test it, once Lorwyn is a part of the online Extended metagame. I’m looking forward to it. If my Internet connection ever comes back.


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