This week we’re returning to the PTQ grind to look at a couple of crossover builds and pieces of tech from the new Standard and see if they make the transition to Extended. While this may seem a bit adventurous, considering a number of Extended strategies have parallels to existing Standard ones makes it a worthwhile endeavor. Besieged and PT Paris is already making an impact in Extended and if you aren’t in traveling distance of a SCG event, is going to be far more important over the next few months. So let’s jump back in and see what’s going on!
First is Caw-Go, Caw-Blade, Squires Incorporated or any other name for UW Control which includes Stoneforge Mystic and the Swords (Body of Mind and Feast and Famine). After seeing the power of the deck in Paris, I was very interested in trying to port it over to the Extended field. Consider that the best decks are effectively an aggressive control deck, two flavors of Prismatic Omen combo and arguably a straight control deck. Taking a deck that plays out like Fish is a big benefit in that field and the ability for early drops to pick up a Sword and start bashing isn’t to be underestimated. Backing this up with countermagic as part of the main plan instead of it being a cute little bonus was the tipping point though.
Really that’s the key difference that ended up sinking so many aggro decks that attempted to have equipment packages. Faeries has a built-in capability to protect itself before it even touches normal counters, it gains them from a variety of abilities on the Fae themselves. Then throw in very cheap disruptive and protective spells and the game plan goes from being very good to deadly. By copying this game plan with UW it becomes possible to fashion quite the powerful plan at least on paper.
I’m kidding of course; it’s powerful in reality as well. Michael Hetrick played his version of UW featuring Stoneforge Mystic and an equipment package and was rewarded with a top four in the last Magic Online PTQ. His losses consisted of Faeries in the Swiss and the 75-card mirror in the top eight. Destroyed by a man he once called friend, Ricky Sidher* brutally curbstomped Hetrick without remorse in games that should never be witnessed by human eyes again. Ricky then went on to win the PTQ, meaning that the two copies in the PTQ outperformed every other deck by a ridiculous margin.
A big thing in this format is to have two-mana broken spells, and while Stoneforge Mystic may not fit the classical definition of a broken card, it gets the job done. It tutors up a major threat and allows it to bypass countermagic; in a sense Stoneforge is the ultimate enabler for this strategy. The downside is that it’s slow, but Spell Pierce and Mana Leak can stop anything too terrible from coming down the pipe and later Cryptic Command remains the ultimate catch-all. In a sense the best way to take UW is to emulate what Faeries does, but make it dominant in the actual match-up between the two decks. Stoneforge and Sword of Feast and Famine allow it to do so and it helps that many of the usual answers are good in the match.
Seeing is believing though, and here’s the list from a daily event courtesy of sipitholla, aka Ricky Sidher, aka retarded cousin of Michael Hetrick.
Looking closely at the list you’ll see many similarities to existing UW builds, but more importantly is the overall change in focus toward early threats and damage. Notice the quad Mutavault joining the Celestial Colonnades giving this deck as many manlands as Faeries. Squadron Hawks are chilling in the board, while threats with a bit more impact are maindeck and both Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique are capable Sword holders. Spell-wise, the deck completes the move to Spell Pierce and Mana Leak as the early counters of choice and doesn’t concern itself with board control or protecting Jace TMS. Just like in Standard, the role swaps this version is capable of mean that this becomes a far more salient threat against Valakut and Faeries decks.
I had been talking with Philip Yam about the possibility of such a build and I’m surprised at how close our chatter looked to what a finished product ended up as. Normally I’d be skeptical of such a radical departure from the norm, but the PTQ win and top four should at least get credit to the build and have at least some people sit up and take notice. While traditional UW Control will still exist, the Extended version was already leaning toward using early drops as aggression in some matches and this is just the logical progression of it.
Moving on we have a possible format swap of Kuldotha Red coming on the horizon. While one could rightly point out that there’s already a reasonably quick red deck in the format, it always felt two seconds too slow when Kitchen Finks and decks that killed on turn four entered the equation. Now we have the turn three and four kills and the capability to blast right through the usual blockers instead of trying to negate them. This deck also benefits from the metagame of Extended, where there’s no real reason to have Pyroclasm over mainstays like Volcanic Fallout and Firespout, meaning the deck has an extra turn of action before sweepers hit.
Sadly you don’t gain a ton in the transition, at least from best I can tell. The best artifact you gain is Springleaf Drum which while not the best in the deck, allows you to get a lot more value out of your 0-drops. Basically it gives you yet another artifact to sacrifice to Rebirth and get multiple one-drops out early to set-up Bushwhacker or Warzone turns. Nothing as amazing as while the card was in Affinity, but not the worst thing in the world. It also helps enable Thoughtseize which gives the deck a nice piece of disruption to nab sweepers, Kor Firewalker and Kitchen Finks with.
Yes people may be skeptical of a non-damage dealing card in the deck, but the card is just so good at banging on opponents key cards that stop this sort of attack that I love having access to it. Also note that it isn’t a typical turn one play and that playing it as such is usually wrong; you want the extra aggression on the field and unless you’re trying to keep a Firewalker off the field there is limited reasoning to cast it over a threat. Black also opens up the possibility of Go for the Throat in matches where blockers are a possibility and Dark Tutelage for longer games, although in Extended that seems to be less of an issue than in Standard.
Here’s the basic list I’ve been trying in 2-mans:
I’m not entirely happy with the manabase, nor the exact creature set, but it was good enough to show me that the concept was viable. It fills the old niche of Burn decks in Extended where everyone was busy casting Lava Spike in an attempt to chain together a 7-spell storm deck. The only difference now is that you’re using creatures and that the field is pretty soft to large swarms with the kind of speed this deck possesses.
The final deck I want to talk about is nothing new, but rather what Faeries is becoming producing some throwback to old seasons Faeries. Multiple PTQ builds have taken to running 1-2 Sword of Feast and Famine in the maindeck as an additional weapon against Vengevine and Omen decks and more importantly the mirror. Turning off Fae’s removal and ability to Forcefield with Bitterblossom tokens is a huge impact and landing a hit or two can end the game in short order. If a Sword hits the field and gets equipped the only things stopping it are Cryptic Command or a Mistbind Clique on blocking duty and both of those are quite the expensive answer in a Faeries mirror.
Pieces of equipment becoming the standard operating procedure in Faeries shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. Umezawa’s Jitte was played in many Faerie decks and while not on the same power level, SOFAF is set up very well to cause havoc in almost any match. Some Faeries players are also switching over to a largely Spell Pierce and discard-based protection suite to maximize their turn one plays and easily protect Bitterblossom / Sword / Mistbind Clique. Even if you dislike the Sword, it’s good to be aware that its presence is growing in Faeries decks and it deserves respect and possibly sideboard answers.
Another option I’ve seen floated that I was interested in pre-Besieged, but is even better now. Playing Abyssal Persecutor and big Jace looks a heck of a lot more appealing than it once did. Not only do you have a ton of maindeck ways to remove your Abyssal when necessary, but a Titan-sized creature in this format just outclasses everything until you hit Wurmcoil Engine range. They can bash through in the mirror at will and is one of the best blockers around against Noble Hierarch decks. Moving Faeries toward a slower UB Control-esque deck using Vampire Nighthawk, Abyssal Persecutor and Wurmcoil Engine is something I’ve been very interested in if aggro-control decks like Bant make a resurgence.
That’s it for this week, but before I leave off, I wanted to drop off a bit of Standard stuff just to get the old brain cells firing. Lately I’ve been playing a lot with battle cry decks that weren’t built around Kuldotha Rebirth, most of which were bad Quest for the Holy Relic decks. However one color combo stuck out and proved to have some real success the more I played around with it and slowly clipped away the slower cards. Here’s where I’m at with RG Tokens with battle cry.
The sideboard is a bit loose, but I actually like having the LD package against Valakut and decks with weaker mana bases like Tezzeret decks. Vengevine comes in against Day of Judgment decks as yet another haste guy they have to deal with after UW clears the board. Really any control deck lacking Tumble Magnet is going to have a bit of trouble with Vengevine and Hero of Oxid Ridge both being available post-Wrath. The Heroes and Signal Pest allows the deck to dish out large chunks of damage while not being forced to wait until 5 mana Overrun effects come online. You don’t necessarily have to dump your entire hand just to have a kill turn or deal more than 2-3 damage on a given attack like the old Mono Green version. Boros is probably still better, but this was the only other color combination I felt was positioned to have a chance in the metagame.
If you just want a super greedy nutso deck, here you go.
I just couldn’t get over how badly I wanted Lotus Cobra in a Tezzeret deck and ended up parlaying most of Chapin’s deck into a pile of good cards, removal and of course Lotus Cobra. The one thing I did find out was that Shrivel, Ratchet Bomb and Tumble Magnet take care of almost everything aggro decks tend to throw at you. Meanwhile a combo of Precursor Golem and Wurmcoil Engine tend to take care of rest, same going for landing an Avenger of Zendikar on the table. Boros remained the main annoyance, though Acidic Slime and Tumble Magnet went a long way into not losing to equipment or Hero of Oxid Ridge starts. I think the concept has potential, but cutting all the counters has consequences.
That’s it for this week, its back to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and laughing at the various hate messages I get from people who have clearly never played a Marvel game in their life. Hint: If you’re whining about cheese, scrub tactics or spamming in a moral way, you probably should look in the mirror before hitting Send.