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Compulsive Research: Exiled to the Sideboard and Post-Conflux Results

Stop Running Path

Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, stop playing Path to Exile as a four-of in your main decks. There’s absolutely no reason to do so.

Using a Path to Exile on an opponent’s creature in the first few turns of the game might save you damage in the short-run, but giving them a Rampant Growth allows them to play multiple cards per turn or play some of their more expensive spells as you head to the mid game.

In the mid game, when the opponent has four or five lands in play, giving them a Rampant Growth effect is still not great. In Standard, if people draw their spells, having extra mana is not going to go to waste. There are Mutavaults to attack with, Windbrisk Heights to activate, Chameleon Colossi to pump, Figures of Destiny to make big, and so on. Even aggro decks like Blightning aggro can make use of the extra mana, allowing them to unearth multiple creatures in one turn and still have mana to Flame Javelin or Blightning. And decks with Mountains also occasionally play Banefire, which is another handy thing to do with that extra land.

In Extended, the biggest advantage is being able to play multiple spells a turn, so a Naya Zoo deck on turn four can play a Sulfuric Vortex and a Tarmogoyf, and so on. So the idea that in the mid game it’s not going to matter because they won’t be able to make optimal use of their land doesn’t hold water.

Also remember that not every game has each player making their land drops each turn. Getting stuck with more expensive spells in their hand and having no way to cast them is a great way to lose a game, while having your creature Path to Exiled is a great way to mitigate that.

In the late game when both players have a bunch of land and the extra land is mostly irrelevant, why play Path to Exile in the first place, when you can play a more expensive spell like Oblivion Ring, but without the drawback if you need to play it on turn three?

I see people running this as a four-of, but tell me that they don’t want to play it early. If you don’t want to play a spell early, why on earth would you run four of them in your deck? It makes absolutely no sense to me. Path to Exile has inherent card disadvantage and tempo loss built into it. It is not on the same level as Swords to Plowshares, where the life gain is often irrelevant and gives them no tempo boost.

I can’t think of a single four-of that you would want to run but not play early on in the game. That’s the opposite of what you want a four-of to be.

There are exceptions, however. If you need to get an early drop off the table or you will lose, then it is worth the tempo loss and the card disadvantage. For example, Affinity plays Path to Exile to deal with any Katakis that come their way. Turn two Kataki can be so devastating to Affinity that it’s worth playing Path to Exile, because in the end Affinity is likely to be so much stronger than the opposing deck that it can overcome the drawbacks of Path to Exile. Similarly, if you are facing down a turn one Deus of Calamity, then spending a card to turn their creature into a land is not such a bad deal (although Condemn is likely the better choice in this situation). It is a white way to deal with Gaddock Teeg and Ethersworn Canonist, if those cards are crippling (although Oblivion Ring does the same thing). And obviously if your opponent isn’t playing basic lands (like Affinity), enjoy your even-better-than-Swords cards.

I’m not saying it’s a terrible, unplayable card, because it’s not. However it is a very overrated, situational card that should not be played heavily before sideboarded games. And even if you have them in your sideboard, you should think long and hard what role Path to Exile is filling and if it can be just as easily filled by a card without such a harsh, severe drawback. It reminds me a little of Extirpate; some people went completely bonkers over it and were maindecking it, but it ultimately found its niche as a powerful, situational sideboard card (although not everyone got the memo; one person played Extirpate in his maindeck and made top 16 of Grand Prix: Los Angeles, and I had to fight maindeck Extirpate during the later rounds of the same Grand Prix when both of us were in day 2 contention).

Path to Exile is the Vince Young of Conflux. It came in with a ton of hype, but people will realize it’s overrated and ultimately will lose its value and end up sitting on the sidelines.

With that out of the way:

Post Conflux Extended

The first two rounds of Conflux-legal PTQ results are in, and so far it doesn’t look like it’s had a huge impact on the format. Path to Exile is seeing some play and Noble Hierarch made the emerging Bant aggro deck significantly stronger.

Results from thirteen post-Conflux PTQs are in, including the awesome-sounding Magic Cruise, with the following breakdown:

Affinity: OOOOxxxxxxx
Zoo (both 5c and Naya, the latter of which has become the dominant archetype since Grand Prix: Los Angeles): OOOOxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
All-in-red: O
Elves: Oxxxx
Wizards: OOxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Loam: Oxxxxxxx
Bant aggro: xxxxxxx
TEPS: xxxxxxx
U/W Tron: x
Sullivan Red: xx
White weenie: x
Martyr: xx
Beasts: xx
Next Level Blue: x

There are four unknown decks, as one PTQ reported only a top six, and two others reported the top seven.

Affinity has been the best aggro deck in Extended since its inception, as long as it doesn’t get hated out. Path to Exile is actually fine in Affinity, allowing them to play Ethersworn Canonist for the Elves and TEPS decks while still having an answer to Kataki without having to dip into black to play Darkblast, and has won its fair share of PTQs as a result.

Another interesting innovation is Carl Hendrix’s use of Delay at Grand Prix: Los Angeles. Bill Stark said he thought that Hendrix’s build was so much better than the others in the field that he was able to play his way into a top eight despite making some mistakes along the way. Bill liked the Delays so much, he decided to play them maindeck:

Affinity – Bill Stark, Magic Cruise

 

Some of the sideboard cards might look a little odd. Due to card availability on the boat (where there were no dealers), he had to play Scrabbling Claws because he couldn’t find Relic of Progenitus. The lone Stifle was supposed to be a fourth Trickbind as well.

Gaea’s Might rotated out this Extended season, but has returned in Conflux wearing a fake moustache and glasses and calling itself Might of Alara, which fits right back into the five-color Zoo decks.

Dwayne St. Arnauld – Zoo, Magic Cruise

Dwayne did not have card availability issues on the boat and was able to play the 75 he wanted to. In addition to making Top 8 on the boat, he proposed to his girlfriend, and she accepted. Congratulations, Dwayne!

But Zoo and Affinity aren’t the only aggro decks running around. Bant is starting to emerge as an archetype to be reckoned with, evidenced by two Top 8 appearances in Pittsburgh.

Mike Magby – Bant, 2nd place

 

Ryan Chapman – Bant Aggro, Top 4, Pittsburgh:

 

Trygon Predator has always been one of my favorite creatures and does a great job of blowing up opposing Jittes, Chrome Moxen, and Affinity creatures/lands. Maindeck Gaddock Teeg is well-positioned, as many TEPS decks don’t have an answer to him game one. I’m interested to see if Rafiq of the Many will make an appearance at any point this season, as I feel he’s one of the more underrated cards from Shards of Alara. He makes the other deck’s creatures big and angry, and he plays well with Umezawa’s Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice, as well as Trygon Predator in the Affinity matchup.

With the popularity of Affinity, you’re likely to see more Ancient Grudges in sideboards. This affects Wizards, as many still run Vedalken Shackles as a way to steal creatures. As a result of this splash damage, many are moving away from Shackles and using Sower of Temptation instead. In Berlin, there was an interesting twist with a small splash of white:

Dennis Sinner – Blink Wizards, Berlin

Since all of the deck’s creatures already have some comes into play ability, Momentary Blink really shines here. In the past, we’ve seen people play decks that are mediocre if they don’t draw Momentary Blink. But in this case, the deck doesn’t need to change its creatures at all, instead benefiting from the white splash to further recur the comes into play abilities of its creatures. The white splash also gives the deck access to Kataki and Path to Exile against Affinity.

I think Extended is an underexplored format and that there’s a ton of room for innovation, especially with all the options Conflux gives us. With so many splashable cards and manabases that allow for said easy splashes, many decks can alter their strategies to better fit the anticipated metagame, making for an interesting cat-and-mouse game (or more like cat-and-mouse-and-panda-and-penguin; Extended is a varied format).

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