Chasing Victory – Last Minute Extended

Grand Prix Oakland is a mere day away and I’m not happy. Thopter/Depths is still the best deck by far, but that hardly means that I would be happy playing it. The mirror match is incredibly skill intensive, as every decision matters, but still, there is the possibility for the Marit Lage blowout. Even Thoughtseize into Dark Confidant feels incredibly unfair. There are obviously ways to combat Dark Confidant, Dark Depths, and Thopter Foundry, but answers are so much worse than proactive cards in the face of Thoughtseize.

So what to do? I’ve tried brewing, with some Magic Online success, but I didn’t really come up with anything that I feel would give me a considerable edge against an entire field of random decks, regardless of how well I end up doing vs. Dark Depths.

Here are some of my brews, for reference:

The sideboard could contain Tarmogoyf, Threads of Disloyalty, Celestial Purge, Pull from Eternity, Ancient Grudge, Negate, and Shadow of Doubt. Goyfs give you a solid backup plan and Pulls give you outs to Extirpates. Purge and Grudge give you more game against Depths.

The combination of the Thopter combo and Punishing Fire is incredibly good against Depths/Foundry. It’s hard for them to keep a Confidant in play and Marit Lage isn’t all that threatening. The problem came in the post board games where I had only a single Celestial Purge to fight Leyline of the Void, and had no Pulls to counter Extirpate. Should you be fully prepared, I believe that a deck like this might be exactly what the format has been asking for.

I later added Mystical Teachings, but at that point it seemed like the deck had too much going on. The mana base was also all over the place. You could cut Tarmogoyf and play something like Kitchen Finks instead, which might actually be better anyway.

The sideboard for this one would be some combination of Kitchen Finks, Damping Matrix, Ancient Grudge, Negate, Firespout, and Threads of Disloyalty.

I felt like this approach might be better than the control version for a couple reasons. First of all, it had more than one win condition, as the Foundry combo is becoming increasingly unreliable. Second, it was more aggressive. Hiding behind counterspells just isn’t as effective as it used to be, and it’s even harder to find a deck that wins by inevitability (which obviously saddens me to no end).

Red, Blue, and Green have a great variety of options in Extended, even if you aren’t able to cast Thoughtseize followed by Dark Confidant.

I 3-1ed a Daily Event with this:

I played against DD/Thopter once and tore it apart, but lost to a Zoo deck. Somehow, Threads, Goyfs, and Jittes just aren’t even close to good enough. Thoughtseize and Dark Confidant are much worse with a fetchland manabase. Even with Tarmogoyf on defense against something like Zoo, you die way too quickly.

Obviously I can’t play with Smother online, so they were Agony Warps, which while similar, were significantly worse.

I even tried this one in a PE, but failed miserably after playing terribly.

The Pull in the sideboard makes their Extirpates look foolish. I would consider playing a second in case you randomly draw it and they are smart enough to Thoughtseize it. Teferi can also allow you to play around Extirpate to a certain extent. You are basically all in on the Thopter combo, so you want to draw the pieces naturally and not have to waste time tutoring up a Sword of the Meek.

I should have played an alternate win condition in the sideboard in case they do manage to break up the Foundry combo somehow. Meloku, Oona, or Sphinx of Jwar Isle are all solid candidates.

This list made me happy. I had answers to nearly all of the hate cards that people could throw at me. So what’s the problem?

Again, the fetchland/dual manabase with Confidant and Thoughtseize was painful. I could see this list with Ancestral and Spell Snare being very good. Kitchen Finks would be excellent out of the sideboard and so would Fracturing Gust, but that would require a bigger shift to a white mana base, probably with some Mystic Gates. Overall, I’m fine with that as much doesn’t change. Your Pulse of the Fields in the sideboard gets even better.

So why is this better than normal Teachings? Well, first of all, you have a real win condition and an accidental “I win” combo. Normal Teachings is going to have to grind out every game and isn’t actually very good at beating Dark Depths, despite popular opinion.

From my experience, the matchup is rather easy. The discard is incredibly effective against them, as perfect information allows you to know exactly what combo you should go for. Sometimes, you just end up protecting Bob, sometimes you need to sculpt a late game plan with Thopter Foundry, and sometimes you see that they’re weak to a Marit Lage.

They don’t have an overabundance of answers to either of your threats, nor do they have a lot of card drawing to recover from your discard. I could see how you could think that the Teachings deck “has answers to everything,” but the games just don’t play out that way. Fracturing Gust doesn’t kill a Confidant and Path to Exile does nothing vs. an army of Thopters. Yes, they have things like Crovax or Night of Soul’s Betrayal which are nearly universal answers, but that’s where Thoughtseize shines yet again, as does having access to a plethora of Repeals.

From my experience, Leyline of the Void is garbage. In addition to Leylines, you need answers to their Lages and Confidants, in addition to whatever else they decide to throw at you post board. Leyline just doesn’t solve all the problems and it takes up a lot of slots. Sure, it’s good against crappy decks like Dredge, maybe Living End, and probably some of the above brews with Punishing Fire and the Thopter combo, but you can do better in the mirror. All the problems you solve with 4 Leylines you can solve with 2-3 Extirpates. I could understand playing Leyline of the Void if you want to, but I don’t think it’s quite worth it.

The struggle for mirror superiority still rages on, as very few people seem to be doing their job of innovating. There has to be more than the make sure Bob dies, Extirpate Foundry plan. It’s possible that a Teachings into Pull plan has merit, but it could also just be too cute, and wreak too much havoc on the manabase.

I’m not entirely happy with the whole Dark Depths combo. I side it out against almost everything already, and as you’ll notice, none of the above decks contain the pieces. Beseech the Queen has even left my combo builds as I step even further away from the Depths combo with every new iteration of the deck.

However, I’ve noticed that without it, my matchup percentages against the “tier 2″ decks in the format like Burn, Doran, Death Cloud, Scapeshift, etc go down. I’m not getting those free game wins and as such, my overall win percentage goes down with it. All the decks in the format, when not threatening to kill you on turn three, all tend to play fair. They are all quite good at what they do so it’s very hard to gain even a slight edge against them beyond 60/40.

I can’t control what people play in events. There will always be those playing underpowered Rock decks, crappy burn decks, and so on. They are still part of the metagame and therefore I should probably play something that has the added side bonus of annihilating them if at all possible. Dark Depths does exactly that and for that reason, I don’t really see a reason to not play them in Oakland.

Whenever I tried out the decks that were all in on Thopter Foundry, I found myself sometimes having trouble closing games. It’s nearly impossible to get complete control of the game since the counter magic is so bad in comparison to the threats. The closest you can get to locking up the game is by assembling your combo, but you don’t instantly kill them, and almost everyone is playing ways to break it up. At that point, you almost certainly haven’t killed all of their threats, so they can probably just resume attacking you.

Relying solely on the Thopter Foundry combo is a bad idea. It’s much too difficult to fight through all the hate unless you have specific answers with something like Mystical Teachings to find them. Playing a secondary win condition maindeck is necessary, and a third in the board is probably a good idea.

I think that a Thopter Foundry control deck is well positioned at this point, and after the GP this weekend, the format will be even more defined and therefore easier to hate out.

Good luck with whatever you choose to play this weekend.


30 thoughts on “Chasing Victory – Last Minute Extended”

  1. I forsee a return to U/W Thopter Control, although I wouldn’t be shocked to see Baneslayers in the main and Jace…

  2. “… crappy decks like dredge…” Its usually when no one bats an eyelash at this comment that dredge wins a tournament…

  3. As a preface; I suck at extended.

    I may be miles off the proverbial cheeseboard here, but why have I never seen a deck run knight of the reliquary and dark depths together? they certainly look like they go together.

    4 knight of the reliquary
    4 vampire hexmage
    4 doran, the siege tower
    4 quasali pridemage
    1 dark depths
    43 other cards

    is about as far as my list has got so far, but it probably also includes tidehollow sculler, duress, goyf and kitchen-finks/loxodon hierarch. Maybe even eternal witness (‘though i’m told that card “sucks”). Maybe you mana-base gurus could fit bant charm in there too?

    It’s just an idea, anyway.

  4. Hey Gerry

    If you take out the Confidants for Visions in your last list it is starting to resemble the Tezzeret decks from the beginning of the season (with a thoughtseize upgrade). Maybe the time is right to start playing Tezz again as an alt win condition? I haven’t tried it yet but I feel like a single Isochron Sceptre would be good. You have quite a few decent instants you could imprint. You could even play Silence, which is a lock with Teferi. It’s not exactly Sceptre chant but it’ll do…

  5. I’ve been working on Foundry-based control for a few weeks now because I wanted to play something that your DD/T wasn’t amazing against, since it’s so popular now. This is the list I’m at right now and playing in the Edison PTQ tomorrow:

    4x Misty Rainforest
    4x Scalding Tarn
    1x Verdant Catacombs
    2x Watery Grave
    2x Breeding Pool
    1x Hallowed Fountain
    4x Island
    1x Swamp
    1x Forest
    1x Academy Ruins
    4x Chrome Mox

    4x Dark Confidant
    4x Tarmogoyf
    3x Sower of Temptation

    4x Foundry
    3x Sword

    4x Thoughtseize

    3x Engineered Explosives
    2x Repeal
    2x Threads of Disloyalty

    4x Muddle the Mixture
    2x Cryptic Command


    1x Hurkyl’s Recall
    4x COPR
    4x Finks
    2x Jitte
    3x Duress
    1x Extirpate//Time Sieve

    There are a few problems with it – like the lack of card draw outside of Confidant (I considered cutting 1x each Foundry and Sower and 2x Repeal for 4x Ancestral Visions, but I think that makes me worse off against Depths-based decks.), but other than that it’s been testing very well for me. I’m not sure if I want to change the Goyfs in the MD to Finks to help against Zoo and bad Burn decks, but it might be a decent choice to give me enough time for TF/S to come online.

    @Time Sieve – I doubt it’s as good as Extirpate, but I was playing around with it as a tutorable way to just win the Foundry-mirror. Most of the time it’s decided by playskill and more Swords, but a Sieve lets you take infinite turns for 5 mana a turn, and the other Sieve decks can’t do much about it aside from Thoughtseize//Duress.

    Just thought you’d be somewhat interested in it, it plays a lot like the old NLU decks, replacing CB/T with TF/S.

  6. i like the knight of the reliquary idea minus all of the other cards you suggested, but if you want to play him and keep blue with your dd combo, then youre playing 4 colors and thats a bad place to be, even in extended. id like to see someone play five color vivids with it tho, that might be cool

  7. Rob, if you’re going to bash GerryT, at least use proper spelling/grammar.

    Also, awesome article as always, Gerry.
    (That’s five words in a row that start with “A”. Sounds funny if spoken aloud. lol)

  8. I heart the NLU/Thopter hybrid!

    Feels like it could be pretty darn solid if it got tweaked a bit 🙂

  9. @ Rob & Nicol Bolas

    It’s exactly these type of comments (not needed) that show who the net deck types really are as opposed to the innovators. That is all :p

  10. A lot of you guys really shouldn’t read these, because you don’t understand what’s going on in the least. Articles like this are great because they show the sort of high level thinking that goes into deck selection.

    Ask yourself why he’s trying to innovate into new decks, while admitting that Dark Foundry is still the ‘best’ deck. No one wants to play a perfect mirror in any format because that usually comes down to very high level skill decisions, and you can still sometimes lose with a bad draw. Playing a near mirror when you have some amazing tech is great, but it is occasionally very hard to find tech that doesn’t also shut down your own plan (ie. Damping Matrix). That’s why a lot of deck builders right now are trying to innovate a new deck that can reliably beat DD/Foundry and still not lose to the rest of the field.

    This is where the second part of what he said comes in; the field is going to have a lot of decks that have ‘fair’ match ups on the order of 50/50 or so. These aren’t the favorites, because 50/50ish takes a lot of luck to win a GP or PT with, but they’re still there because some people are willing to take those odds. A deck like Burn can goldfish you by t4 or t5 consistently unless you disrupt it or go off sooner. It doesn’t do anything amazingly broken, but a 4turn clock from when you draw your starting seven really limits your options going forward. All you need to do is stumble once or twice, and the guy playing a tier 2 deck just walked away with a match win. That’s why he’s not running any of those lists; even if you crush DD, you’ll need to make it through the other half of your matches to get to the top 8 and flaunt your stuff. When you randomly lose to Burn/Scapeshift/whatever, that becomes a lot harder. Why do you think we’re seeing so many top players innovating with home brews?

    Thanks a lot for writing these, I really enjoy your articles, both because of the good writing style and the generosity of insights into the meta. Good luck!

  11. To those hating on the sample lists- We can guess from his comments he HASN’T broken the format again (which i remind you, his first iteration of DDT did), but even if he had, do you think he would openly share his format breaking list?

  12. I completely agree with the assessment that Dark Depths is necessary for beating the weaker decks. If you give up Dark Depths and rely solely on Thopter, you lose a lot of your advantage against the “fair” decks. Nicely put and 100% agree.

    As a side note, if you are starting a tournament with 2-3 Byes, a lot of times the cream will begin to rise to the top, and you should consider playing the deck that beats up on the Tier 1 decks. With that in mind, good luck this weekend. I’ll be in Cali in about two hours. Maybe we can get some battling in!

  13. You have a sb for a reason. The good thing about dd being bad against the mirror (which I don’t 100% agree with) is you can take it out and guess what, it’s a mirror so the win % is 50/50. Stop playing poorly if your losing your mirrors.

    And the IDEA that dredge is bad will force it to take back the meta. Being granted the ability to go all in on zealot games 3/3 due to no hate will make the thopter combo look stupid. Unlike affinity, dredge is a monster in the closet that does well in the face of 4-10 cards in sb against it.

  14. I just wanted to congratulate you on trying to be innovative and throwing in a lot of different decklists along with how they tested.

    Its funny that this article is about beating the best deck in the format which also happens to be yours.

    Theres not much doubt I would think that DD and Zoo are the decks to beat and it would seem that no one deck has a solid game plan against both.

    Threads of Disloyalty seems like a great card right now given it takes Marits, Confidants and everything in zoo.

  15. Slaughters elves and has a good match vs zoo and DD/Thopter…
    4 Dark Confidant
    4 Vampire Hexmage
    3 Kitchen Finks

    3 Chrome Mox
    1 Duress
    4 Thoughtseize
    1 Ritual of Consumption
    2 Shred Memory
    4 Punishing Fire
    4 Bitterblossom
    3 Umezawa’s Jitte
    4 Firespout

    4 Dark Depths
    4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
    4 Grove of Burnwillows
    2 Twilight Mire
    4 Verdant Catacombs
    1 Fire-lt Thicket
    1 Swamp
    1 Mountain
    1 Forest
    1 Blood Crypt
    1 Overgrown Tomb

    4 Tarmogoyf
    4 Deathmark
    3 Damping Matrix
    2 Darkblast
    2 Cranial Extraction

  16. Jordan and Nick: Very interesting decks! I’m glad to see SOME people doing some innovating. I’m just going to stick with the “best” deck for the GP as I don’t have enough time to brew up something nice.

  17. @ Mark: Way to go.
    First you tell people they shouldn´t read this because they have no idea what´s going on. then you use 26 rows to write complete nonsense that are either completely wrong or something everyone who played this game for more then 1 month allredy knew.
    Nice job overestimateing yourself there ^^

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  19. Current list:

    8x U-fetches
    1x Hallowed Fountain
    2x Breeding Pool
    2x Watery Grave
    1x Academy Ruins
    6x Island
    1x Forest
    1x Swamp
    3x Chrome Mox

    4x Goyf
    4x Confidant
    2x Sower

    3x Spell Snare
    3x EE
    3x Threads of Disloyalty
    4x Thoughtseize
    3x Foundry
    3x Sword
    2x Cryptic Command
    4x Muddle the Mixture

    3x Extirpate
    4x Finks
    2x Loxodon Hierarch
    3x Duress
    1x Hurkyl’s Recall
    1x Threads
    1x Vendilion Clique

  20. Gerry, Im in love with the your Meloku´s Deck.

    What do you think about this decklist.

    1 Forest
    1 Moutain
    1 Stomping Groud
    2 Breeding Pool
    2 Steam Vents
    3 Flooded Grove
    3 Misty Rainforest
    3 Scalding Tarn
    4 Grove of the Burnwillows
    5 Island

    4 Tarmogoyf
    3 Vendillion Clique
    3 Kitchen Finks
    1 Meloku

    4 Ancestral Visions
    4 Spell Snare
    3 Lightning Bolt
    3 Repeal
    4 Punishing Fire
    4 Mana Leak
    2 Threads of Disloyalty

    3 Negate
    1 Kitchen Finks
    1 Threads of Disloyalty
    2 Ancient Grudge
    2 Firespout
    3 Dampng Matrix
    3 Negate
    3 Ravenous Trap`

  21. I can’t wait until the Extended offseason. Then I’ll be able to pick some of this stuff up. As much as I would love to play this Extended season, I’m just not quite up to par with where I want to be play skill-wise, and I don’t want to go into any tournament, PTQ, or even FNM, without the knowledge that I have a real chance of winning. Two of the guys at my local shop have qualified for the Pro Tour. One of them has come close several times. As such, I’m not overly fond of playing store tournaments, where I can go 4-1 and finish 4th in a Top 4 of all 4-1s.

    Nice article though, and I definitely appreciate the attempts to show some alternatives.

  22. Adam.

    Why wouldn´t you?
    Playing in those store events would be a great way to get some games in against good players so it would just help you in your goal of becomeing better.
    Winning is sweet but loosing will in general teach you more if you can look with clear eyes on why you lost.

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