I would tell you what I played on the PTQ last Saturday, but to completely honest, I still don’t know and the event is tomorrow at the time I’m writing this. I’ve been preparing for Extended over the winter break, but nothing manifested itself as the best. If none of the last-minute options pan out, I’ll probably take a Tezzeret deck with a Zoo and Mono Red heavy sideboard, as well as a good plan against Scapeshift.
What I am going to write about is the deck I wish I was playing. Early on in our testing it was one of my first ideas. It all started when I realized that almost every deck had to win through combat damage, so why not play Turbo Fog? I was trying to think about what Extended gave the deck, and more Time Walks sounded like a good idea. After fooling around with Walk the Aeons and Time Warp, I loved the deck. Rites of Flourishing makes a Time Walk pretty insane for you. As far as fogs go, the actual card Fog would do nicely, and then Tanglesap could do backup, along with some Cryptic Command. This is how the list looked the last time I tried it out, presented in imitation of Max McCall.
UG Turbo Turns
The basic idea is that you spend the first few turns playing Howling Mines and Fogs, both figuratively and literally. When the time is right you cast a Time Walk, either when you have to because Zoo is killing you, or when you have an open window against a blue mage. From there your Mines should fuel your hand enough to keep taking a lot of turns. When things go right you should take all of the turns and kill them with a Rude Awakening fueled by Rites of Flourishing land drops. When things don’t go entirely right and you draw a bit badly and run out of Time Walks, you should have gained enough advantage off of your Howling Mines that you’ll get them the next turn anyway.
From top to bottom, let’s talk about some of specifics:
Simic Growth Chamber was revolutionary. The way this deck lost to control decks (Like Tezzeret) was that it missed land drops early. You would play a Rites of Flourishing, miss your land draw for a turn, and then the control deck would use your own Mines against you. Once they were ahead, it was hard to get back in the game. Simic Growth Chamber meant that you rarely missed land drops once you got going, and it actually put you very far ahead in the Rites of Flourishing land drop race, which helped those matchups immensely. They are so important and useful that four seems like the right number. I had some storage lands (like Calciform Pools) for a while, but hitting the land drops from Rites of Flourishing was much more important.
Magosi, the Waterveil hasn’t been used that often, but I’ve found that it’s powerful enough when you do use it that it’s worth the spot. Against control decks they are pretty scared of tapping out, because once you start taking extra turns they don’t get to untap. That means they usually won’t spend mana on their own turn, so activating Magosi at the end of their turn and letting them take another one doesn’t give them that much of an advantage, though with the upswing of Cryptic Command the plan is becoming a little shadier. Still, once you have a counter you have a near-free turn in the wings. You can cast Time Warp, let them counter it, then take another turn with Magosi and cast another Time Warp. Still, lands that enter the battlefield tapped can be very annoying while you’re going off, so Magosi might not be worth it in the long run.
After playing the deck for a while you start to notice a rhythm, both in the early turns and as you are going off. Chrome Mox accelerates that rhythm a full turn. Casting a turn one Howling Mine or a turn two Rites of Flourishing is pretty amazing, since it will be hard for your opponent to take advantage of the cards as quickly as you will can. While Chrome Mox is useful this way, it isn’t great in multiples so I don’t want to run that many. The one Chrome Mox, however, is deceptively powerful once you start going off. Going off usually follows this pattern:
T1: Time Walk
T2: Time Walk
T3: A Mine and a Time Walk
T4: A Mine or Two and a Time Walk
Once you get to that fourth step it’s very hard to fizzle. Getting to the point where you can play a Mine and a Time Walk in the same turn is critical (again highlighting the importance of Simic Growth Chambers). The chance of you running out of turns at that point is much lower, because it means next turn you’re likely to cast a Time Warp and a Howling Mine again, and you start to snowball. Chrome Mox accelerates you to that step one turn faster.[card]Jace Beleren[/card]
The real win condition is the one Rude Awakening, but Jace acts as a backup win condition if you need him to. Let’s say your opponent [card]Castigate[/card]s your [card]Rude Awakening[/card] on turn two. You can still start going off, hit them with a Jace ultimate, or sometimes two, at which point the game is over. Sometimes you don’t get Jace going quickly enough to get two off, but you can still play out a bunch of Howling Mines and pass the turn. Magosi letting you skip a turn should be enough to make them draw the rest of their deck.
Don’t forget that you can play an additional land the turn you play [card]Rites of Flourishing[/card]. With a Simic Growth Chamber it’s not that hard to cast a turn three Rites of Flourishing and a turn four [card]Walk the Aeons[/card]. Also, with the extra land drops, Simic Growth Chamber can help generate mana if you don’t have any other land drops. Just tap an Island, bounce it with Growth Chamber, and then replay it. Be careful, though, because Rite of Flourishing is also the most helpful to your opponent. There are some matchups (like Scapeshift) or situations where you don’t want to cast Rite of Flourishing until you know you can go off.
Tanglesap is almost a Fog. Normally the increased casting cost is the biggest frustration, meaning that you can’t play Jace on turn four and protect him. Usually the trample drawback is irrelevant, and when it does matter it just means you’re taking three from [card]Treetop Village[/card]. Sometimes, however, you face down a [card]Deus of Calamity[/card], and then you really see the difference. The deck could splash white pretty easily for better fogs (like [card]Holy Day[/card], [card]Angelsong[/card], or [card]Pollen Lullaby[/card]) but I didn’t want to do that until it was completely necessary. White means the manabase is less consistent, more painful, and more susceptible to [card]Blood Moon[/card]. There might be other cards the deck wants that become available with white, so maybe it’s worth checking out in the long run.[card]Cryptic Command[/card] is so good in Turbofog decks because it does everything. It’s a cantripping fog, but it means you don’t have to run twelve actual fogs in your deck. It also bounces troublesome permanents, counters troublesome spells, and helps you force a Time Warp through. It’s also very useful at gaining tempo with a [card]Howling Mine[/card] against control decks, boosting you ahead in the land-drop race when you bounce their land early. [card]Walk the Aeons[/card]
Smart use of Walk the Aeons’ buyback helps reduce the chance of fizzling a lot. The deck only runs enough total Islands to buyback a Walk the Aeons twice, but it’s very rare that you need to do it more than once. Usually when you do buy it back it’s midway through going off, just to guarantee that you’ll have a Time Walk on your next turn. Your chances are usually pretty good that you’ll draw another Time Walk, but the buyback is safer if you can afford it.[card]Reclaim[/card] does a lot for the deck, but it usually gets back a Time Warp. Sometimes you really need a Fog, and Reclaim will help. Remember that each Mine is a separate trigger, so you can let each mine draw you a card before you know you need to Reclaim. If you don’t draw a different Time Walk before the last trigger resolves, Reclaim a Time Walk and draw it. You can also use a Jace activation to immediately draw the card you Reclaim. You don’t generally want to waste a Reclaim when you don’t need to because it’s better in your hand than a Time Walk.
Since each Mine trigger is separate, you can use two Reclaims to stop yourself from decking if you need to. The first Reclaim you can cast at any point in the game to get back whatever card you want. Then, when you’re about to deck, with the Howling Mine trigger on the stack, cast your second Reclaim targeting your first Reclaim. Now you’ll draw a reclaim when the trigger resolves, and you can repeat the process until all the triggers are used up. This is useful if Rude Awakening was near the bottom of your deck, or if you need to Jace them out of the game because your Rude Awakening didn’t work.
While Reclaim is very useful, I didn’t want the deck to be very susceptible to graveyard hate. That’s also the reason why I didn’t try to go for infinite turns with Walk the Aeons even though the deck is only one card away. Adding one Crucible of Worlds means you can go infinite by replaying the islands you sacrifice to Walk the Aeons. Since you have Rites of Flourishing giving you more land drops, you should be able to replay three islands by that point in the game. However, infinite turns aren’t really necessary, and most decks can handle a Crucible of Worlds if they need to. It’s much better to have consistent cards like more fogs or mines in your deck, because that’s what you really want to see in your opening hands.[card]Rude Awakening[/card]
Rude Awakening was just the best single card win condition I could find. For a while I was using [card]Research//Development[/card] because it was more flexible, but I found it was worse for a few reasons. First, your sideboard space was better devoted to actual sideboard cards, since the one slot in your maindeck was going to have to be used anyway. Second, Rude Awakening was actually much more useful when drawn as you were going off. You can just cast it without entwine to untap your lands and generate a little extra mana, accelerating you through your going-off stage like I described with [card]Chrome Mox[/card]. Since the deck runs Reclaim, it means you can get the Rude Awakening back later.
There’s also a chance that you won’t have enough lands to actually kill your opponent with Rude Awakening. It’s rare, but they might have gained a bit of life or have a lot of blockers out. Blockers are usually taken care of with a Cryptic Command tap, but life can be a bit of an issue. You can still Jace people out that have a bunch of life, but Rude Awakening is a much safer kill if you can get it since it doesn’t require passing the turn. One thing you can do to help a close Rude Awakening kill is to keep Misty Rainforest around instead of sacrificing it. Usually while you’re going off you want to thin the land out of your deck, but once you don’t need the mana and have all the turns you need, Misty Rainforest is better off as a 2/2.
The other Rude Awakening intricacy worth noting is that your lands don’t have haste, meaning they can’t attack the turn you play them. Usually when you Rude Awakening you want to leave four mana open for Cryptic Command just in case, and for me that four mana is usually a Simic Growth Chamber, a Chrome Mox, and the land I just played that turn. Just make sure you don’t Rude Awakening and then find out that the two lands you just played can’t attack, and you’re just short on damage. It’s not always right to play Howling Mines if you can once you’ve secured enough turns, so you often want to check the size of your library and make sure the amount of extra cards you’re drawing matches up evenly. With two Reclaims decking usually isn’t a problem, but things don’t always go according to plan.
The sideboard is a little rough because I moved on from the deck before we got that far, but this is what I was thinking about:
Against the aggro decks you really need to gain life, otherwise they will finish you off with burn spells drawn off of your Howling Mines. Sun Droplet was promising for a while, but it’s actually kind of awkward when you’re running Fogs. The deck also wanted cards that were better off the top, and Sun Droplet really needs to be in your opening hand. Nourish is the next best lifegain spell I could find.
There are a few permanents that need answering like Gaddock Teeg and sometimes Meddling Mage. There are also jerks out there who will Oblivion Ring you, so that’s why I went with Echoing Truth over something like Unsummon. It also has an added bonus of being an answer for a Dark Depths token. Two mana is more than one, however, so Unsummon might just be what the deck wants.
The control matchups tend to be pretty good, though that depends on how many counterspells they are running. Tezzeret is relatively counterspell-light, so eventually resolving a Time Walk isn’t too hard. Gigadrowse and Teferi are there to help later in the game. Gigadrowse hasn’t been tested that much, so I’m not sure if you have enough blue sources to effectively lock them out, but it’s worth trying.
The Dredge matchup is pretty good except for one card: Iona. If they name green, you can still take extra turns and Cryptic Command Iona if you need green spells. If they name blue, though, now you’ve got to deck them and stop yourself from dying with Fogs. It’s doable, but it’s much easier just to answer the angel in the first place. You’re pretty well-off against zombie tokens as long as you draw a fog.
Some combo matches are easy if they need to hit you and can’t get past a fog, but some (like Scapeshift) require a better response. The Scapeshift matchup is actually pretty horrid – they can use your Rites of Flourishing much better than you can. Negate is about your only hope, but they should generally win the counterspell war, so maybe there is a more reliable card that you should use instead.
There are two reasons I’m not playing this deck on Saturday. First, Scapeshift is on the rise, and that’s not a matchup I want to face. Second, the deck doesn’t actually do very well against the aggro decks. Originally I just assumed that a turbofog-style deck would crush aggro like it does in standard, but that’s not really the case in Extended. Because the creatures in Extended are much faster (like Wild Nacatl) you’re taking a lot more damage in the first three turns. Then, because the burn spells are bigger (like Tribal Flames) and because these decks tend to run more burn spells than Standard decks usually do, it’s much easier for them to finish you off outside of combat damage.
You’re usually still okay against the slower Baneslayer Angel Zoo decks, but once the deck has a little more speed and reach, the matchup goes from a win to a loss. It’s funny how extreme of a switch it is, but it makes sense. Your mines cause them to see so many cards and usually see a mix of lands and spells, that the other deck usually gets to execute on its strategy. When that strategy is too slow, you’re fine. When that strategy is too fast, you’re not. It’s that simple. Coupled with the fact that Gaddock Teeg and Qasali Pridemage are finding their way into maindecks, and I just lost hope.
Given the right metagame this deck could be the right call. You’re pretty good against Tezzeret, though I imagine that’s only if you have the jump on them. If this was somehow an established deck I’m sure Tezzeret could evolve and find a way to beat you without that much work. The deck is also a lot of fun, because come on, who doesn’t like taking all the turns? It’s extremely boring to play against, though, so good luck finding a playtest partner.
Since the fogs aren’t giving the deck the good matchup against aggro they are supposed to, it might be right to remove them entirely. I am not running any acceleration in the deck because the gameplan didn’t need it, and the deck space was better used for more consistent cards. However, if the deck moved more towards a straight combo and away from fogging, maybe there’s enough speed there to race the aggro decks. I didn’t imagine that would be easy, so I focused my testing elsewhere, but I’d love to hear if somebody else found a way.
As for what I am playing tomorrow, I’m still working on it. It’s 9:00, so I’d say I have about three hours before I absolutely have to decide. Luckily I feel like I really know the format, so knowing what my opponent is up to won’t be an issue. Now I’m just trying to find a deck that has a good enough matchup against the field and one that I know well enough to pick up now. Wish me luck!
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