1) Take Sensei’s Divining Top with Duress. On the opponent’s draw step, cast Surgical Extraction on the Top.
I like waiting until they draw in the hope that they draw a Top, because even if they do draw a random blue card, you are fine with them pitching that to Force of Will and keeping Counterbalance, given your Abrupt Decay. If you do this, the opponent is very likely to Force the Extraction, because a hand of two Tops is much better than a hand of Force + Counterbalance (a Counterbalance that is now much less useful).
The net result of this hand is most often going to be: Duress + Surgical Extraction for Sensei’s Divining Top + Force of Will + Counterbalance (with nothing being removed from the opponent’s deck). I don’t love this line, because even if you do trade Extraction for two blue cards, you had to Duress a card that isn’t going to do a ton (the third Top is fairly redundant).
2) Take Counterbalance, then cast Extraction on your turn to avoid the opponent being able to cast Force by drawing a random blue card.
I would like this play a lot more if not for the Decay, which is there solely to answer Counterbalance.
Net result: Duress + Extraction for every Counterbalance in the deck. Getting 2-for-1’d and stranding a Decay in your hand does not sound like good value. I’d avoid this line.
3) Take Force of Will, then cast Extraction.
Here I’d again lean toward main phase, as giving them a chance to draw to another Force just gives them the option of Forcing Extraction.
Net result: Duress + Extraction for every Force of Will in the deck. Again, this is a 2-for-1 in the wrong direction, even if it does stop the opponent from drawing Force of Will in the future. I’m not a fan.
4) Take Force of Will, then plan on Extracting Counterbalance after you Abrupt Decay it.
This uses all the cards at close to their max potential.
Net result (assuming you Ponder into a land that produces green and your opponent doesn’t find another counter): Duress + Abrupt Decay + Extraction for Force of Will + all the Counterbalances. This sounds better than all the previous choices.
To tell the truth, I’m not in love with any of these options. Surgical Extraction remains a card I’m not very impressed by, and even in a situation where it looks like it should be awesome, it’s still just trading a card now for future value. I think you can do better than that with a sideboard card, but here we are, so let’s work with it.
Given that you aren’t killing the opponent very soon, I like trading for the most cards. For that reason I’d go for #4:
Take Force of Will with Duress. Plan on casting Abrupt Decay on Counterbalance, then Surgical Extraction’ing future Counterbalances. Note that this plan can change if you draw another Decay, at which point using Extraction on Force may make more sense. This play leaves the opponent with just a bunch of Tops and no Counterbalances in their deck, which I think is the best long-term plan. Force of Will scares me less than Counterbalance, and given enough time, the opponent will find more Counterbalances than you will Decays. The player who submitted this ended up going with line 3 (take Force, then Extract it), and did end up winning the game with relative ease. That doesn’t change what I’d do, but it’s interesting to know what the player chose.
I’ll be back soon with another play, and remember that I’m always taking submissions at [email protected] If I feature your play, you’ll get $25 store credit (and the prize of seeing tons of people suggest plays they think are vastly superior to what you actually did). Exciting!