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Rogue Report – An Extended Family Reunion

 

It’s time to talk about decks again. Without the full Zendikar spoiler out I don’t feel comfortable talking about Sealed, the most relevant format for me coming up. Instead I’m going to talk about my favorite decks from last Extended season and how they fair in the new environment. Luckily they don’t lose many cards, but it’s worth exploring their new place in the metagame. I want to put a lot of time into the upcoming Extended season, like I did last year, and now is the time to start.

Friki-Diki Time

First up is hands down my favorite deck from last season, the one that took me to Hawaii, the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite combo deck. Luckily it loses very little in the rotation, especially now that we have enemy sac lands. Here is the list that I played at the Seattle PTQ last season:

Kiki-Jiki gets Friki-Diki

 

I don’t think it’s fair to call this a combo deck, especially when I won a significant amount of my games without the combo. It plays like a midrange deck that generates a lot of advantage with Trinket Mage, Gifts Ungiven, Reveillark, and Kiki-Jiki, often times tutoring for just the right spell for the matchup. Sometimes you accidentally win. Another strength of the deck is that it can attack from many different angles, so you can still easily win though a resolved Cranial Extraction or a Relic of Progenitus. The sideboard is a little wacky, and while it works very well with Gifts Ungiven, I know it could be better. If you want to read more about the deck’s inner workings, you can check out my past articles on the deck here and here.

The deck survives the rotation very well. It’s gaining better fetchlands than it is losing, and the only other cards that rotate are two sideboard cards for the [card Minds Desire]Mind’s Desire[/card] matchup that is rotating out with them. As for shifting matchups, Faeries losing Riptide Laboratory gives every other deck in the format a little extra room to maneuver, and this deck is no different. Unfortunately two of this deck’s easiest prey, Astral Slide and GB Loam, are rotating out. I hear there might still be a Death Cloud deck, which is probably good for Kiki-Jiki.

Unfortunately this deck’s biggest weakness is also in its matchups. I didn’t really test against Faeries, so I’m assuming it’s a bad matchup, but you’ve got a few instants and disruption so I’m not completely giving up on that one. Zoo, however, was unbeatable. [This seems bad given what the new metagame is supposed to look like. -Riki] I largely gave up on that matchup last season, but there are things you can do to try to salvage a win. Lightning Helix is pretty good, as is Path to Exile, and more Wraths wouldn’t hurt. If Zoo is the deck to beat, this probably isn’t the way to go. However, if the format isn’t straining this deck too much, there might be room to make that matchup winnable just by sideboarding into a control deck.

The first place to look at improving the deck is the manabase. Out come seven illegal fetchlands, and in go eight legal improvements in Arid Mesa and Scalding Tarn. I think running eight fetchlands, while a bit painful, is correct now that they all grab two of your colors. I think this means that you’ll be grabbing basic lands a lot more often, which also tells me that you want more basic lands in the deck. I like every other land in the deck, and the only place I can see making cuts is Sacred Foundry and Steam Vents. The real place to make sacrifices might be in the “fluff” lands like Tolaria West and Academy Ruins, but I’m not willing to make that sacrifice until the manabase proves itself unworthy. Until then this is what I’ll be trying out:

4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Island
3 Rugged Prairie
2 Cascade Bluffs
1 Ancient Den
1 Great Furnace
1 Academy Ruins
1 Tolaria West
1 Chrome Mox

This manabase assumes that the color requirements of the maindeck stay roughly the same. The hybrid lands Rugged Prarie and Cascade Bluffs are instrumental in paying the 2RRR on Kiki-Jiki, and I don’t think the deck would work without them. Kiki-Jiki is also helped by the fact that all of your fetchlands get red, so A+ there. Two Mountains and one Great Furnace might be too many lands that only make red mana, but I want all my fetchlands to be able to grab basics later in the game, so two Mountains will help that. We’ll see if it’s worth it as the deck plays out.

Academy Ruins is so awesome, giving you near infinite copies of Engineered Explosives, Pithing Needle, and Chalice of the Void going into the late game. You’ve only got one and no way to bring it back from the graveyard (making Gifting for it awkward) but that’s where Tolaria West comes in. One Tolaria West looks a little strange, but it helps the deck’s consistency tremendously. It acts like a second copy of Academy Ruins, Chalice of the Void, Tormod’s Crypt, and Pact of Negation, which are each very important is certain matchups. The artifact lands are for Trinket Mage, a card I don’t see cutting, and you still don’t need Seat of the Synod. I also count Chrome Mox in the manabase, and I think one is the perfect number for this deck.

There are only a few spells from Zendikar (so far) that I might want to play. Day of Judgment is exactly what the deck wanted: a Wrath with a different name. It may replace Firespout in the maindeck now that combo Elves is (largely) rotating out. Wrath of God was better against Zoo anyway, killing Woolly Thoctar and Tarmogoyf every time. Mindbreak Trap will probably find its way into the sideboard, assuming that there will be a use for it somewhere. Spell Pierce is very efficient for what it does, so if the need for a one-mana counterspell arises it may find a place. For now I don’t see a need, but it’s on my mind. Lavaball Trap is the only other card that I’ve looked at, but that’s stretching it.

I don’t see a lot of room in the maindeck to move around. There is a lot going on, and each piece is important. Pestermite, Kiki-Jiki, Reveillark, Body Double, Gifts Ungiven, and Resurrection are the key pieces of the combo engine, and I don’t see myself messing with those slots. Depending on the speed of the format the numbers on cards like Gifts Ungiven and Kiki-Jiki might go up, but for now I like them at three.

The other engine in the deck that deserves to stay intact is Trinket Mage and his friends. Just the ability to grab a land or an Engineered Explosives is good enough! Chalice of the Void and Pithing Needle are metagame targets, but I still see them being necessary in the maindeck. Tormod’s Crypt could find its way maindeck depending on the metagame, but I hate playing that spell in game one. I got a lot of flack for the spellbombs, but they are largely misunderstood. Sure Pyrite Spellbomb was there to kill Gaddok Teeg, and Sunbeam Spellbomb was there to pull you out of burn range, but that was only some of the time. Other times you really just want your Trinket Mage to draw you a card, and that’s what spellbombs let you do. They are better than Chromatic Star at least. Until a reason for Pyrite Spellbomb presents itself this season I have no problem moving it to the sideboard, or cutting it completely. Sunbeam Spellbomb, however, stays.

The deck still wants to draw cards, and with the Trinket Mage engine staying in, Thirst for Knowledge is still probably the best way to dig. I have been toying with the idea of one Ancestral Vision for the Tolaria West, but that’s way too slow for me.

That leaves us with the deck’s control elements: Kitchen Finks, Mana Leak, Wrath of God, and Firespout. As I mentioned before, Day of Judgment makes perfect sense in place of Firespout, so that switch is easy. Mana Leak was perfect for the deck, and unless a better counterspell presents itself, that’s the one I’m sticking with. Kitchen Finks is a weird card. I never would have put it in the deck if I started with this UWR version, but since I started with it in the old four-color versions I can’t imagine cutting it. Kitchen Finks blocks like nobody else, but he is also really good at attacking. It’s very important to apply pressure in some matchups, and Kitchen Finks does just that. While it’s the most underwhelming creature in the deck to Kiki-Jiki, it’s not like it’s bad at all.

If you’ve been keeping score all I’ve changed is -1 Pyrite Spellbomb, -1 Firespout, and +1 Day of Judgment. As for that last slot, I’m not sure exactly what I want yet. If the format gives us enough time, the right answer is probably the fourth Gifts Ungiven, though the fourth Thirst for Knowledge probably isn’t bad either. Engineered Explosives is also really good, so the third one of those can’t be bad. For now I actually want to test Lightning Helix, so in it goes. It’s a weird one-of because it’s not really tutorable, but I want to test it, and one is all there is room for. That leaves us with the following maindeck:

4 Pestermite
3 Trinket Mage
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
2 Reveillark
1 Body Double
4 Mana Leak
3 Thirst for Knowledge
3 Gifts Ungiven
1 Lightning Helix
1 Resurrection
1 Day of Judgment
1 Wrath of God
1 Sunbeam Spellbomb
1 Pithing Needle
1 Chalice of the Void
2 Engineered Explosives
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Island
3 Rugged Prairie
2 Cascade Bluffs
1 Ancient Den
1 Great Furnace
1 Academy Ruins
1 Tolaria West
1 Chrome Mox

It’s hard to sideboard this far in advance, but there are a few things we can figure out. Stifle and Gilded Light rotate out, and Mind’s Desire and Elf Combo with them. I feel safe taking out Trickbind, Ethersworn Canonist, and Rule of Law with them until the format tells me otherwise. Again, Day of Judgment is better than Firespout, and while Wrath is generally better than Judgment, Gifts Ungiven still wants the split. If Troll Ascetic becomes a problem that might change. Affinity should still be around, so I have no problems holding on to Shatterstorm, Kataki, and Hurkyl’s Recall. Duergar Hedge-Mage, Volcanic Fallout, and [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] never did that much, though it’s not fair to rule them out quite yet. Pact of Negation was an all-star, so that stays. That leaves us with seven slots I like:
1 Shatterstorm
1 Kataki, Wars Wage
1 Hurkyls Recall
1 Tormods Crypt
1 Wrath of God
1 Pact of Negation
1 Day of Judgment
8?

From there it really depends on what the format is asking for. More wraths might be the right call. Ethersworn Canonist and Rule of Law might make their way back in if they prove themselves against Hypergenesis combo (and if that deck proves itself). That was a lot of words for not a lot of changes, I realize. For a combo deck Kiki-Jiki is pretty metagamed, so its important to see if the environment is at a place that Kiki-Jiki can handle. As for the core of the deck, it definitely remains intact.

Forecast of Lifegain

The other deck I played last season is BWR Martyr of Sands control. I liked it a lot early in the season when the other decks weren’t quite sure of themselves yet. Your game plan usually trumped the other player’s, except in the case of BG Loam and Faeries. Now that cycling lands are leaving along with Riptide Laboratory you don’t have to worry about Raven’s Crime as much, and I’m pretty sure you can start trumping Faeries late game now. This is what I played to day to Grand Prix LA:

Cactus Control

This deck’s manabase makes the exact same transition as Kiki-Jiki. Bad fetchlands come out, and good ones go in. I was struggling a bit with the mana last season trying to cast turn three Phyrexian Arena, so the new fetchlands couldn’t make me happier. I’m also ecstatic that I don’t need to play Ghost Quarter anymore, as that was easily my least favorite card in the deck. Zendikar has a cool new land made just for us, Emeria, the Sky Ruin. I need to play a lot with Emeria before I make my final ruling because I’m not actually sure if you ever hit 7 Plains. It’s too good not to test, however, so I’ll try two for now. I wanted to go up to 26 lands last season anyway (and oddly had it in my sideboard where I almost always brought it in) so this is a good time to do that.

2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
4 Arid Mesa
4 Marsh Flats
1 Blood Crypt
4 Godless Shrine
2 Sacred Foundry
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Rakdos Carnarium
4 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Mountain
1 Mistveil Plains

This maindeck is very different than Kiki-Jiki because its game plan is so consistent. Kiki-Jiki adapted for each matchup, where Marty just powers through with the same plan. I see no reason to mess with the core engine of the deck: Martyr of Sands, Kami of False Hope, Ranger of Eos, Proclamation of Rebirth, and Phyrexian Arena. I also see no reason why the bullets of Figure of Destiny and Ghost-Lit Stalker should change. There’s a chance that the metagame doesn’t want Ghost-Lit Stalker in the main, and any non-white card has to really justify itself, but I think Ghost-Lit Stalker is still going to be instrumental in beating Faeries.

Speaking of a non-white card, Roiling Horror certainly fits that description. That was the best card we had against Faeries (really) but the intricacies of that matchup have no doubt changed with the loss of Riptide Laboratory. Sanguine Bond presents itself as an interesting win condition, but like I said before, non-white cards really have to justify themselves. I’m confidant that there is a white card that wins the game, I’m just not sure what the right one is yet. Figure of Destiny is a little fragile if they have Path to Exile, as is any creature. Sacred Mesa might be the way to go, but if they kill it you’re a little cold. The right answer might be more Figure of Destiny, or even an Urza’s Factory. Zendikar‘s Felidar Sovereign just dies, but I guess if you keep trying with an Emeria it could work. Speaking of Emeria, Iona, Shield of Emeria is my other choice because you can just lock them out of their answer. Oh, and Debtor’s Knell. I guess there’s always Banefire, but we’ll need some storage lands for that. For now I’m going to stick with Figure of Destiny, and then we’ll see if any matchup needs more.

Hide/Seek was a very specific metagame card. Hide was a very convenient card to have in the maindeck to fight Umezawa’s Jitte, Vedalken Shackles, and Affinity creatures. Seek just happened to be good against anything that Hide wasn’t, like Swan’s Conflagrate and Elf Combo’s Mirror Entity/Grapeshot/Predator Dragon. I’m sure there will still be Jitte’s to kill so I’m scared to cut the card entirely, but until the metagame says otherwise I’m not sure four is necessary.

I’m so glad that Zoo (and any other red aggro deck) loses Sulfuric Vortex. It made a matchup that should be a bye into something a little more dicey. We’ve still got to play Wrath of God and Lightning Helix to beat them, and I see no reason those spells should leave. If something big like Doran becomes the norm then Path to Exile might be right, but I’ll stick with Helix for now. Ajani Vengeant was also very good in the aggressive matchups, but doubled as a very distracting threat against control. It’s rare that you got the ultimate off, but they would be distracted long enough for you to set up Proclamation of Rebirth or Ghost-Lit Stalker.

Again, not a lot of changes, but it’s important to justify every card in the changing metagame. -1 Roiling Horror, -1 Hide/Seek, +1 land +1 Kami of False Hope is where I’m at. I wanted the third Kami last season, but there just wasn’t any room. That leaves us with the following maindeck:

4 Martyr of Sands
3 Kami of False Hope
1 Figure of Destiny
1 Ghost-Lit Stalker
4 Ranger of Eos
3 Hide/Seek
4 Lightning Helix
4 Proclamation of Rebirth
4 Phyrexian Arena
4 Wrath of God
2 Ajani Vengeant
4 Arid Mesa
4 Marsh Flats
1 Blood Crypt
4 Godless Shrine
2 Sacred Foundry
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Rakdos Carnarium
4 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Mountain
1 Mistveil Plains
2 Emeria, the Sky Ruin

All that’s left is the sideboard. Once again Rule of Law and Ethersworn Canonist come out until Hypergenesis (or some other combo deck) demands their inclusion. Firespout comes out because there are no more elves to kill, but having more wraths is never a bad thing, so I feel comfortable changing them into Day of Judgment. I want to try Detritivore as a win condition against Faeries, especially because it serves double-duty against decks like Tron. Boil might be better against the little blue men, especially if they’re switching back to Vedalken Shackles.

Last season I’m pretty sure we should have played [card]Extirpate[/card], so I’m making room for that. Cranial Extraction is another card we probably could have justified including, so I’ll try that out as well. The best part about Cranial Extraction is that you can hit the other guy’s Cranial Extraction.

I’m thinking I’ll start with something that looks like this:
3 Fracturing Gust
2 Day of Judgment
1 Kami of False Hope
2 Detritivore
2 Extirpate
2 Cranial Extraction
3?

The other way I might take this is to play a small [card]Idyllic Tutor[/card] engine. In the maindeck you’ve got Sanguine Bond and Idyllic Tutor (which serves as a white Sanguine Bond). Out of the sideboard you’ve got cards like [card]Circle of Protection: Red[/card], [card]Aura of Silence[/card], and Rule of Law. This looks a little slow to me right now, but It’s worth keeping in mind.

The other question I keep coming up against is justifying the red inclusion. The mana isn’t that bad so I haven’t cut the color yet. It’s not like the color isn’t doing anything, but I’m wondering if there are problems that another color couldn’t solve in a better way. Blue has to have some good options, so I’ll probably create a BWU version sooner or later. I just hate to abandon a good fetchland setup right when I got it!

Time for Zendikar

I wanted to talk about Krark-Clan Ironworks, another one of my favorite decks I used to play, now with [card]Open the Vaults[/card]! But really, who has the time? Extended isn’t here for a couple of months, and what I should really be thinking about is Zendikar Sealed. I’m (sadly) not qualified for Pro Tour: Austin and I’m sure things will change after that event. If I were qualified, my frontrunner would be Martyr of Sands, but wanting won’t get me anywhere. Time to brush up on my Limited skills – who wants to cube?

Thanks for reading,
Jonathon Loucks
Loucksj at gmail
JonLoucks on twitter

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