Wizards has announced the set rotations for Extended: As of November 1st, Ice Ages, Homelands, Alliances, Mirage, Visions and Weatherlight, and 5th edition, will no longer be part of the format. Neither will the dual lands.
The dual lands, the hallmark of the format, will be gone.*
Needless to say, this changes things considerably: The format will no longer be about strange and wonderful three- to five-colored decks. Not only does the format lose the Dual Lands, but the Mirage fetch lands, Tithe, Thawing Glaciers, Undiscovered Paradise and Gemstone Mine. Land Grant can now only get forests. The useful land search cards now cost three mana (Yavimaya Elder, Deep Reconnaissance, Harrow) A lot of commentators have overlooked the effect the duals have had on the extended metagame. It wasn’t just the duals that defined the format: It was the duals plus the fetch lands. It was that a turn 1 Grassland and another dual meant you had all three colors of mana available and untapped on turn 2 consistently. No deck not running duals and fetch lands could – or can – ensure that.
No deck that didn’t run the duals and fetch lands was consistent enough to beat the one or two colored powerhouses that defined the format. That hasn’t changed. Without the duals, two-colored decks can survive – but decks with shaky mana basis, like Trenches, cannot make the jump to Extended. They could not make the jump even if Wasteland, Dustbowl, and Rishadan Port were banned… But these cards are legal. Three- and four-color decks are dead.
A quick overview of what is rotating out.
I think that every single deck -except one – that defines the current metagame is dead, or will have to change a lot. I’ll look at a few, but since every other writer in the world has just done this, I’m going to zip through it. I’ll also be a bit different, and list the things that got lost and decks that are affected. Then I’ll go on to decks that will survive, and new ones that will thrive.
Three-color decks were relying on Tithe, duals and fetch lands. This loss is fatal for the following: Three-Deuce, Junk, Brian Kowal’s suicide Oath, Maher Oath, CounterSliver, Druid Rector, Operation Dumbo Drop, Super-Gro, 5 color control, BUG, etc. The following are seriously harmed: Rock, Benzo, U/W weenies.
Quirion Ranger/bounce and replay a forest.
I think the ability to bounce forests and untap useful creatures was critical to powering some decks. This is probably enough to do in Elf-Ball and 9 Land Stompy, although those have other hits as well. It affects U/G Tradewind control as well.
Pyroblast, Dystopia, and Anarchy:
I’m no Sligh expert, but I would bet heavily against Sligh / red beatdown being any good in the new format. Jackal Pup and Mogg Fanatic are is still around – but Fireblast, Viashino Sandstalker, and Ball Lightning are all gone. More importantly, Pyroblast is gone but Chill is still legal. For that matter, with Anarchy and Dystopia gone, Story Circle, CoP Red and Black, and Light of Day all got a little better. And the Solitary Confinement / Squee / (deck you) lock is going to be game against any deck without an answer. (Flaring Pain – The Ferrett) Having a deck that autoloses to a strong new entrant, before and after sideboard, is a bad thing, so I expect mono-red and mono-black decks to be history. I don’t think Steamclaw is enough.
Swords to Plowshares:
The last white removal card that could break a Tradewind Rider lock is gone: Now white has no way of removing a creature until it attacks. Reprisal and Exile are not replacements. Green/white decks are now stymied by cards like Peacekeeper** unless they start running Cursed Scroll.
Wall of Roots:
This loss only affects one deck: Rock and his Minions. Without a cheap Wall and mana creature, the deck is very vulnerable to beatdown and early Masticores. I am guessing that those people who say Rock is still okay haven’t played the deck all that much. I have – and before that I played a similar G/B Survival deck. Losing the combination of mana and blocker early on is, together with the loss of Bayou (which, with Llanowar Wastes, consistently allowed a turn 1 Duress or Birds, and a turn 3 Yavimaya Elder) is probably enough to do in the deck.
Okay, the decks that should still be around:
The deck is all about the broken turn 2, with Exhume, Life (of Life/Death) and Reanimate combining with monstrous fatties like Verdant Force and Hypnox. (Yes, I know he does not remove your hand when he comes back from the graveyard – but only blue can deal with an 8/8 black flier that appears on turn 2. No Swords, remember?) When it works, it’s great… But it seems very luck-dependent without the fallback of Zombie Infestation and Firestorm – both powered by Squee and Krovikan Horror. While people will keep trying it, Benzo becomes a one-trick pony, and counterspell decks will know just what trick to counter.
The enchantments/enchantress engine still runs. It is fast enough to reset after Upheaval, can hide from red and black with Solitary Confinement, and has only really lost Swords, Emerald Charm, Aura of Silence, and Sacred Mesa. I think it is still a solid deck, but end-of-turn Hibernations may be killer. Enchantress lost to land clumps – and to blue decks game 2 – in the past. Cunning Wish to get Hibernation game one may be too much to handle.
The straight U/G version is still playable – but without Winter Orb, it is nothing special. Daze is pointless without being able to constrain mana, and Gush will no longer let you get an extra green mana by bouncing Tropical Island.
W/G Fattie Geddon: (weak to possible)
Birds, Elves, maybe Utopia Trees, fatties and Armageddon have some possibilities… But they are as shaky as Reanimator. It will come down to resolving Armageddon versus blue control or losing. Of course, green still has River Boa, Blurred Mongoose, Blastoderm, Scragnoth and so forth, so it might be able to bait enough counterspells early to force ‘Geddon through. Hibernation and Submerge are brutal, though. I think the concept needs a lot of testing – and my money is on blue winning out.
Solitary Confinement / Intuition (very probable)
A blue/white control deck with Meddling Mage, Counterspell, Absorb, Mana Leak, Accumulated Knowledge, Intuition, Compulsion and Solitary Confinement is pretty good… Oh, and four Squee, Goblin Nabobs. Intuition finds Squee. Squee/Compulsion digs through the deck at end of turn. Squee provides upkeep for Solitary Confinement. You could even use Spirit Cairn and generate creatures whenever you pay upkeep on Solitary Confinement. There may be a U/W/G build with Genesis, since Krosan Verge will let you search out forests and plains, allowing the mana base to be pretty heavily blue. This deck has a lot of potential, but I don’t have a build I like yet.
I’m working on this, but too much of the mana is gone. Tinker with Upheaval is possible, as is Covetous Wildfire. Goblin Welder is still cool, but without Memory Jar he is not broken. Mishra’s Helix is still very strong, against a number of decks.
Samurai Jack: (possible)
Bill Macy played a G/W deck at GP Vegas that used shadow dudes, Mother of Ruins, Wax/Wane, Rancor and Armadillo Cloak. The mana base is very shaky without Grassland and Savannah and the deck loses Swords to Plowshares (which is critical against Masticore), but the concept is still solid. It is a pretty good rush deck and one I will look at in the future.
It is a silly combo deck, but it works and the pieces survive. Without Force of Will, the deck is a bit more dangerous and it gains additional help (if needed) in the form of Solitary Confinement and Test of Endurance. Test of Endurance means that the deck can become U/W for card drawing and counters, instead of red for an About Face kill.
Prison Decks: (possible)
U/G Tradewind Rider is still around. Quirion Druid is gone, which is a big hit. However, the deck does have some solid benefits, including new counters, graveyard recursion and a consistent mana base. Winter Orb is gone, but Static Orb is almost as good. The only other serious loss is Force of Will, which is very big. I see this as a long shot, but a real possibility – and I have to admit I never played this deck extensively. Other prison decks also seem likely. Humility/Orim’s Prayer is still legal, although Kjeldoran Outpost is gone. Darkest Hour/Light of Day is also legal.
Infinite Mana / Stroke decks: (probable, if they pack enough counters)
The Palinchron/Mana Flare combo still works. The deck is two colors, one of which is blue, so it has some power. Other infinite mana combinations could also see a comeback: Intruder Alarm/Equilibrium, Aluren/ Equilibrium/Cloud of Fairies, Altar combos, etc.
U/G Oath of Druids Control: (probable)
It does not have Force of Will, but you could play Oath as a method of finding something that wins the game, like Morphling or Thorn Elemental, plus a lot of blue counters, Powder Kegs, maybe Masticore and card drawing. The main concern would be the game one matchup against speed red – game 2 would have Chill.
Psychatog: (yes, in extended, too)
Draw-go loses Ophidian, but could splash black for Shadowmage Infiltrator. That would also allow it to run the Intuition / Accumulated Knowledge Engine cheaply, using Nightscape Familiar instead of the Medallion. The Standstill engine is not as good since the format will have lots of one-drops, but a controlling version with Masticore and Powder Keg looks strong.
Draw-Go and Blessing-Go: (absolutely)
I saved this for last, because I think this will define the metagame. Blue loses Nev’s Disk, Impulse, Thawing Glaciers, and Force of Will. That’s huge. However, it gets Cunning Wish with Hibernation, Misdirection, and so forth in the sideboard. It has a now-unkillable Chill, the Intuition / Accumulated Knowledge engine, Thwart, Foil, Counterspell, and Mana Leak. It also has Morphling. Some Donate decks began running the Medallions and Morphlings main, instead of (or in addition to), the Illusions combo. That still works. Moreover, Judgment gives us a new, instant-speed Gaea’s Blessing replacement, for the purposes of getting individual spells back into the library. Masticore and Powder Keg are great weenie control. How good is Masticore now? Null Rod, Swords and Incinerate are gone. Will we see a return of Splinter and Reprisal?
A late addition – Fish: (probable)
If I’m right and blue decks dominate, then Merfolk decks will be strong. Curious, Island-walking fish are powerful in a blue metagame, and only in a blue metagame – although they will miss Winter Orb.
I would note that I have now played in Type 2 environments with all the parts of the new Extended. All of those T2s had dominant blue or U/x decks. I see nothing in what Wizards has done that will mean that blue will not dominate the new Extended format as well. Of course, the one wildcard in this whole equation is that, by the time these rotations occur, we will have a whole new set to play with. That could change everything – especially if they reprint cards like Undiscovered Paradise or Gemstone Mine. Or, for that matter, something like a 4/4 untargetable green creature, or a strong new mechanic for some color other than blue.
Until then, the only major Extended tourneys are at Origins and Gencon, and they will be dominated by a stupid broken combo deck. I won’t tell you what it is, but I can give you a hint.
Whisper. Dragon. Whisper, Whisper, Whisper.
Recap: On rereading this, I seem to give the impression that a lot of decks will be playable. That would be wrong. I think that the new Extended, like the last several type 2 formats, will have two or three dominant base- blue decks, plus one or two other decks that can abuse a mechanic to stay competitive for a while, until the control decks find an answer. Think early Tempest/Saga with Capsize locks and Draw-Go versus Living Death, Masques/Saga with U/W Replenish and Accelerated blue against Rock, Invasion /Masques with Nether-Go versus Fires and Odyssey/Invasion with Psychatog versus, well, maybe control black right now. I strongly suspect that blue decks will dominate the season, all season. Trick decks will appear, then fade, as blue decks find the appropriate sideboard cards.
* – Yes, Ingrid and I own about seventy dual lands. We also have nine Force of Wills and a ton of other cards. I expect the cards to drop in value by hundreds of dollars, but we expected that – we consider all the card we buy to be the expense of participating in our hobby, not investments. Besides, all of these cards are still playable in Type I, in 5-Color, and in casual games. I’m not upset because the rotation hits us financially, but because the new format will, like T2 right now, be all control versus control.