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Careful Consideration – Condensing Extended

 

When the SCG Open came to my backyard in Seattle, I couldn’t resist sleeving up a Legacy deck, despite not having played the format before, or really paid much attention to it despite watching a few replays of 5Ks and reading Legacy articles on this site. I had avoided Legacy not so much due to card availability issues, but because there’s a weird subculture of Eternal-only players, some of whom are very socially awkward and generally unpleasant, and are very vocal about how all formats other than Legacy and Vintage are bad, and people who would play things like Limited or Extended are elitists.

(I don’t really get the elitist argument, but whatever. Let’s move on.)

I tried my hand at Vintage, and while it wasn’t all about turn one kills or anything like that, it felt very different than normal Magic, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the format – it was just different. I assumed that Legacy was essentially Vintage-lite, which I wasn’t all that interested in.

But I sleeved up some decks and did some testing prior to the tournament, and found that it was quite a lot like Extended, my favorite format. All the reasons why I love Extended were present in Legacy: You can play any number of archetypes, there’s a ton of innovation, cards aren’t so strong that they push out otherwise playable cards, and there are enough silver bullet answers to combat powerful linear strategies. And it was obvious to me that it was very skill-intensive.

The long and short of it is that I sleeved up a pretty stock Zoo list with nothing particularly exciting:

I’ve done a lot of attacking with Wild Nacatl in my life, so I figured hey, why not do this again?

Short tournament report: I had a freaking blast.

The format’s a lot of fun. You almost always have cards at the end of your hand, and you have decisions to make on almost every turn, which I really like. I also realized that Zoo’s secretly a very underpowered deck. You can attack for 3 on turn two with [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], or play turn two [card]Iona, Shield of Emeria[/card]. Zoo’s a very fair deck in a format of people doing unfair things.

But I also realized how such a fair deck can do so well at the tournaments. Legacy is hard, and Zoo punishes mistakes pretty well. I’m pretty sure that if I played perfect Magic all day, and my opponents played perfect Magic all day, I would have finished 2-6. Instead, I cobbled together a respectable 6-2, taking advantage of (often subtle) mistakes with punishing finishers like [card]Price of Progress[/card]. Though my losses came to Matt Nass (round 3) and Seattle-area PTQ ringer Greg Peloquin (round 4), so by taking the losses early, my tiebreaks were fairly bad and I finished in 19th place, three spots out of the money. Alas.

So I’m looking seriously at going to Grand Prix Columbus. I don’t think I want to play fair, so it’s unlikely I’ll be turning [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]s sideways if I do indeed go.

One notable thing about our SCG Open: People commented that the play in the ggslive coverage was overly horrendous, and I agree that there were a lot of onboard mistakes and things that wouldn’t be done if people just read their cards properly.

Apparently, the cameras for the coverage do a very, very good job of picking up light. Impressively so. So the setup in Seattle was to put the feature match area in a closet, then put it in a cave. It was so bloody dark in that corner of the room that if you picked up an old dual land or an old card with a lot of print on it, you couldn’t make out the text. I’m not exaggerating here.

This was awkward for me, since my approach to playing my deck was to just look at the cards and my opponent’s life total and play it as tightly as possible, as if this were some sort of prerelease. I was reading cards all day, including my own. I didn’t memorize that Savannah tapped for WG or Plateau tapped for RW. I didn’t need to. I could just read the card, figure out what it did, and then go on with my life. Except in the feature match area, when I tried to read my lands and couldn’t make them out. A Plateau was tapped for green, mistakes were made, and there was no turn two Tarmogoyf. It was completely irrelevant to the match, but it was really frustrating to have to play Magic in that kind of setting.

That’s what people had to deal with all day. It’s hard enough to play a format that you’re unfamiliar with, but when you have to do so in the dark (literally!), it just makes things that much harder.

Anyway, Legacy was a lot closer to Extended than it was to Vintage, and Extended is just about the perfect format, as I’ve written before. Good thing nothing will happen to Extended to change that!

right?

Why is everyone looking at me like that?

A few minor tweaks with an atomic bomb

For those who didn’t see the announcement Thursday night, here is the new Extended policy:

On July 1, 2010, the following sets will leave the Extended format: Ninth Edition, Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn, Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa, Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, Dissension, and Coldsnap. From that point forward, the Extended format will include approximately four years of Magic sets instead of seven.
At that time, the following sets will be legal in the Extended format: Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, Tenth Edition, Lorwyn, Morningtide, Shadowmoor, Eventide, Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn, Magic 2010, Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi.
With the upcoming release of Scars of Mirrodin, the following sets will leave the Extended format:Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight, and Tenth Edition. One year’s worth of releases will leave Extended with every subsequent fall Magic set.
Sword of the Meek is banned.
Hypergenesis is banned.
Note: The four cards previously on the banned list (Aether Vial, Disciple of the Vault, Sensei’s Divining Top, and Skullclamp) are in sets that are no longer in the Extended format.

There will be an Extended Pro Tour (PT: Amsterdam) with 10th Edition and Time Spiral block available in Extended. But when PTQ season rolls around next winter, Lorwyn block will be the oldest block.

Extended just got hacked off and is now a glorified Standard format. “New” Extended resembles “old” Extended about as much as Grease 2 resembled Grease. (You didn’t know they made a sequel to Grease, did you? You’re not missing much, other than a very young Michelle Pfeiffer.)

Don’t get me wrong; I like this new “Doublestandard” format, and I’m looking forward to playing it, but that’s because I really liked last summer’s Standard, and that’s what this is. Post Scars Extended will be last summer’s Standard, with Magic 2011, Zendikar block and Scars of Mirrodin.

But why?

Wizards didn’t give their reasoning for this unexpected change. I’ve often been critical of their tone deaf approach to their customers, and this change is another example of that. By giving no notice of the change, there was a mild crash in the singles market as people tried frantically to unload their Ravnica dual lands and Dark Depths (among other staples from the freshly chopped blocks), thinking they would hold their value for a couple more years.

The speculated “Overextended” format that would stretch from roughly Mercadian Masques block to present has not been announced, so we are left guessing and wondering what’s happening.

Another possible reason is that people didn’t play Extended outside of the PTQ season. Overextended would ostensibly replace Legacy, providing people an opportunity to play with older cards but without the enormous cost barrier of Legacy, since Overextended staples could be reprinted, unlike many Legacy staples, which cannot (due to the reserved list).

I hope we get some communication from Wizards of the Coast soon on this. I know several people who recently bought a lot of Ravnica dual lands, expecting them to be useful for Extended, and are now looking at their cards that have no home in Extended, and aren’t strong enough for Legacy. Worthless.

So what’s out?

Let’s look at the staples of the last Extended environment and examine what is and isn’t in the format anymore.

Kamigawa block:

 

I’m not even counting cards that saw some play but tailed off like Meloku, the Clouded Mirror and Ghostly Prison.

Umezawa’s Jitte is by far the biggest loss. Night of Souls’ Betrayal is secretly not a big deal because Thopter Foundry/Sword of the Meek combo is banned, and Dark Depths rotated out.

And shed a tear for both Jonathon Loucks and Alexander Shearer, as Gifts Ungiven is no longer in Extended. Sorry guys, you’ll have to find a new way to brew.

Ravnica block:

 

Dredge as a mechanic is out, but the biggest losses by far are the dual lands. The fetchlands from Zendikar made it possible for Zoo decks to continue on, allowing fully-powered turn two Wild Nacatls and Kird Apes to prance freely into the red zone, as well as allowing other decks to have pretty consistent manabases.

Ninth Edition:

 

The losses of Phyrexian Arena and Mana Leak really put a dent in control strategies, and the lack of Ghost Quarter and Blood Moon would open up the Urzatron strategy, except that’s gone as well.

Coldsnap:

 

Coldsnap was a pretty miserable set for Constructed, but Dark Depths is the biggest blow (although it certainly looks like it would have been banned if they left it in Extended), as it kills that particular combo with Vampire Hexmage.

Desperate Ritual, Rite of Flame, and Seething Song are all out, leaving no playable rituals in Extended. Rune Snag would have been a replacement for Mana Leak, but that is now gone as well.

Not playing in the Pro Tour? Keep reading.

Time Spiral block:

 

Phew, where to start? Well, the biggest one is the loss of Tarmogoyf, the creature that defined the format two seasons ago. Leyline of the Void left with Ravnica, and Extirpate and Tormod’s Crypt are powerful sideboard options, leaving only Relic of Progenitus to hold the fort as graveyard hate.

I didn’t include Hypergenesis and Sword of the Meek, as they are banned. The storm mechanic is out, as is split second, as well as a bunch of really solid utility cards.

There were also a lot of “easy” two card combos in Extended:
Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage
Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry
Cascade spell into Hypergenesis, Living End, Restore Balance, Bust
Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows

The last season was defined by these two card combos, leaving us with none heading into the new Extended, barring anything in Magic 2011 or Scars of Mirrodin block. Blood Moon effects are gone with Magus of the Moon also leaving town, and fast mana takes another hit with the loss of Lotus Bloom.

Tenth edition:

 

Yeah, let that one sink in for a second. Wrath of God is out of Extended.

Okay, so we have Day of Judgment, but it’s a great illustration of just how far these changes have gone.

For Tenth Edition, I included cards that weren’t so much staples in Extended last season, but rather cards that would see play in the new Extended format if it was legal (and will be for the Pro Tour). Paladin en-Vec would be great to fight Jund decks, and the Seismic Assault/Swans of Bryn Argoll combo isn’t present either.

No, Extended is not Extended. This is a glorified Standard format, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited to play the new format – but if you look at what’s remaining and the viable decks for the new format, you’ll see that the diverse strategies and multiple ways of attacking the format are missing.

If you want that, your only option for the time being is Legacy. Thank goodness that format’s gaining popularity, or I’d be pretty heartbroken right now.

Okay, I still am.

Yours wistfully,
-Zaiem
zaiemb at gmail dot com
zbeg on Twitter
zbeg on Magic Online

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