Today we’ll be covering the Extended metagame and where the top tier stands after the results of Grand Prix Atlanta. First though, congratulations to the Channelfireball crew for their successes in Atlanta, Jason Ford for taking down the whole thing and Matthias Hunt for producing the breakout deck of the weekend. And of course congratulations to Orie Guo for winning an invite to Japan this weekend, who we finally managed to convince Thoughtseize was actually a good card in Faeries. With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Faeries gets its own header because of the perception amongst people that Fae is the end all of Extended and is a good reason to write it off as a format dominated by old Standard decks. Faeries is simply a top tier deck, that’s it. It isn’t the default best choice and it has weaknesses, in fact on Magic Online the deck was so popular for a time you were throwing away tickets if you didn’t have a real plan against Faeries. Now the format has diversified nicely and while Faeries still does well, suddenly people are beginning to break out of the ‘old standard trifecta’ stereotype of 5cc, Fae and Jund being the format.
The best build of Faeries still eludes people and the set that made top eight show some of the differences in Faerie choice, removal suite and card-draw in the deck. The removal swap probably isn’t worth talking about since Go for the Throat will soon be the default choice for Faeries players as removal. However each top eight deck had a distinct Faerie set.
Only a single number matches up. If you want to be more aggressive and have the best opportunity to switch into a race mode, then maxing out on Scions clearly makes sense. If you want to play Fae in a more controlling role in many of your games, then having all four Spellstutter Sprites and not going overboard with more aggressive Fae is the way to be. The same logic applies to whether or not you want Jace anywhere near your maindeck, OwenT had 3 total, while neither other Fae player used any number of them.
One trend that I’ve noticed online and is noted in LSV’s article this week is the increase in Tectonic Edge usage in maindecks and sideboards for Faeries. You’ll note the maximum 4 in the CF list and the addition of LD to the Fae strategy without dropping spell cards is an effective one, especially when combined with the typical discard and counter package Fae has. This will likely become a staple in the future for many builds and combined with the increase of play in the card in Omen, Naya, UW and even the G/W Kibler deck it’s going to pay dividends to make sure your manabase can stand up to scrutiny. People have been skimping on lands and especially on precise colors counts due to the abundance of fetchlands and filters available. A good place to start upping your percentages without taking a sledgehammer to your deck is to start taking a good look at your colors and working them out.
Omen / Valakut
While I thought Omen and Scapeshift decks would be a semi-popular choice for the PTQs, I wasn’t sure how the reception for it at the Grand Prix was going to be. If you’re been playing on Magic Online, you know there aren’t too many people playing Omens or Scapeshift on there and their results up until recently weren’t anything to write home about. So depending on how accurate the Magic Online metagame would be versus the impulse of people to play the latest set of Omen decks or how enamored you were with Matthias Hunt’s latest version of UG Shift, you could have a vastly different perspective on an expected metagame (consider the sad shape of Standard at the moment and realize what a nice change of pace that is) than another person showing up to Atlanta.
Speaking of Hunt’s list, he was one of the 9-0 players from day one; but after a poor day two finished out of the money.
And Ford’s winning decklist:
The maindecks are both strikingly similar and while the sideboards differ, both run similar cards that can be broken down into chunks coming in against specific matches. There’s no huge difference, merely different preferences in protection packages, lifegain (though both like Primal Command) and the only original thing being the usage of Tectonic Edge in Ford’s list.
This type of Omen deck seems like a reasonable way to go, stripping the deck down to its core and going for a combo role in every match, discarding the control role it typically took against aggressive strategies. This makes some sense when taking into account the higher number of aggressive strategies and decks that frankly just aren’t all that good at handling Prismatic Omen a fast combo kill. What also makes a major difference is that this version of the deck can actually leverage it’s mana advantage with cards like Halimar Depths and Tectonic Edge. If control starts to come back I wouldn’t be surprised if more Tec Edges became a staple of UG Shift.
On the pure combo side of the spectrum, RG Valakut, previously thought of as the weaker of Scapeshift strategies and just a Standard holdover had its coming out party this weekend. Ben Stark coming in 2nd and the deck having some of the best day two numbers solidified the deck as something to watch out for in the upcoming weeks. The deck can kill as quickly as the Standard version, but does so far more consistently since the all-ramp hands are far more powerful thanks to Scapeshift and Prismatic Omen. What makes this deck even scarier to me is the sheer power of Primal Command in it, where it merely is a good card in the UG version, the RG version can instantly turn a resolved Primal Command into a game-changer. In aggro matches, gaining 7 life and finding a Primeval Titan or Avenger of Zendikar will end most decks and is one of the scariest things to see when I have a deck like Naya or Red.
Oh and I’m not quite sure why people don’t like Prismatic Omen in this type of deck. You don’t need it, but it let’s certain ramp-heavy hands and anything involving Khalni Heart Expedition look a hell of a lot better and obviously Primeval Titan enjoys dealing a million. I’m not suggesting you automatically run a full set, but I tend to think many people don’t play the card out of card restrictions than any real reasoning. By the way, Prismatic Omen was only 15-16 tix on Magic Online, sounds like a lot until you consider how quickly the online metagame updates and what a Grand Prix win will do the Omen deck’s popularity.
And since I’m talking about financial advice on Magic Online for a minute, let me remind people that Scars cards of all sorts are at a very low point. Seems like a good time to stock up on any Mythics you may think will go up in the future *cough, Planeswalkers, Molten-Tail Masticore, Mox Opal, cough*. Even if it takes until rotation, it seems doubtful that the prices will stay this low the whole way. Mox Opal in particular is a strange one, since there’s never been a Mox that hasn’t seen competitive play in various formats at one point or another. That’s it for me on cards I expect going up, though I’d like to thank Gavin Verhey for hyping up Pyrrhic Revival. I managed to get about 30 for a dime or less and later resold them at .7-1 to various bots a week later. Anytime hype hits for a rare in an old OOP set, expect significant returns quickly even if it doesn’t make a notable impact.
Naya & G/W
While Naya didn’t have an incredibly impressive showing at the Grand Prix, I find it to be growing in popularity online and off. While I liked it as an anti-Faeries deck with reasonable mechanisms to grind out other matches, it’s time may have already passed if combo becomes a big part of the metagame. Or at least a major adaptation is in order, either in regards to adding discard or some sort or other means like Gaddock Teeg and Leyline of Sanctity against Scapeshift decks. It still remains the best Fauna Shaman deck in the format and arguably gets the most usage out of Bloodbraid Elf. Tweaking the core of the deck seems in order before throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but some changes likely do need to be made.
Realistically the biggest issues with Naya are that the mana is shaky and other than Bloodbraid Elf, red isn’t exactly the greatest in the deck. Cunning Sparkmage sucks in a number of matches and past that, all of its other options are replaceable in Green and White. What was interesting was Brian Kibler producing yet another Squadron Hawk deck and focusing on a mana-denial plan without running cards like Fulminator Mage.
CawVenge takes full advantage of Knight of the Reliquary and Sun Titan by packing the full amount of Tectonic Edge in the maindeck. As I stated above, right now the format is vulnerable to disruptions by Tectonic Edge and the capability to have LD spells without reducing business spells sets it apart from similar mana-denial plans. It also doesn’t lose much in other matches, keeping all of the typical hosers and having an additional card advantage engine in Squadron Hawk. One interesting take on this could be if with a few tweaks it could take advantage of some hideaway lands of the Windbrisk or Mosswort variety. A slightly heavier version maindecking Titans and the full set of Birds could get them online at a reasonable pace and have some nice non-Knight of the Reliquary / Baneslayer Angel targets.
Essentially I see two G/W decks capable of taking advantage of value in their lands that most decks in the format can’t. Working along those lines for G/W aggro, Trap, Tokens or anything in-between could be a worthwhile goal since you have access to plenty of good mana producers along with your value lands (Tectonic Edge, Stirring Wildwood, Windbrisk and Mosswort). This is definitely a deck I want to try out and build variations of.
Michael Hetrick (shipitholla) made top four of both our Sacramento PTQ and the Magic Online PTQ the following day with UW Control. Jody Keith made top four of the Grand Prix with the deck and another lost in the win-and-in round of the GP. While I didn’t give the deck much respect before, it’s impossible for me to ignore the results and so I mention the deck to give credit where it’s due. 5cc certainly has advocates and had some success at the GP, results thus far have favored UW as the control deck of choice and it looks to be that way for the foreseeable future. In a way this was the first deck on board the mana-disruption plan and for a while I felt its only true threat was Tectonic Edges and Sun Titans recurring them.
I’m still not a huge fan of the deck while Faeries is the top deck, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend writing it off.
To my knowledge the Red decks didn’t have particularly encouraging success at the Grand Prix, but despite this it remains one of the better placing choice at the PTQ level, on and offline. No tech here, just serving up the beats with a side of home cooking. If you plan on playing Red, the biggest thing I would suggest focusing on is sequencing. You really want to have a solid plan of action in place before throwing around your limited resources and contrary to popular belief that doesn’t always mean trying to win as soon as possible. I find more of my wins online come from scraping out close wins against opponents who mismanage their mana and damage-per-turn then anything I’m actually doing. Just a little bit of life-gain can throw a bad plan out of whack, where as mapping out all of Red deck’s resources make for a pretty miserable experience for the majority of decks in the format.
Oh and as the deck becomes a known quantity you may want to look into splashes. Black, green and white all have valid options and are criminally underexplored for the small downgrade on your manabase. Even for just better sideboard options it could be worth it, as Leyline of Punishment, Manabarbs, and Mark of Mutiny aren’t exactly world-beaters. I’m actually more disappointed that people don’t use what are effectively empty slots to include more Koth, as that’s one of the few cards that actually makes a notable difference against control and decks with lifegain post-board. At least people caught on to Arc Trail with the increase in Noble Hierarch in the metagame.
Still Jund… Pretty much sums it up. My only useful input on the deck is that other than the typical build Gindy used, you can go more aggressively and have a viable deck. Lotus Cobra and Explore are cards everyone writes off, but they seem to forget that in a battle of the midrange the more expensive cards are useless if you never get to use them. The whole dying before or on turn five and the increase of play in Tectonic Edge makes that difficult. Even if it sucks to cascade into a mana producer, at least you’ll be able to reliably cast your five-drops in a timely manner. I’m starting to think the reason Jund has fallen off a notch is because people are still expecting Putrid Leech plus anything to go the distance and it just really isn’t that impressive anymore.
There are certainly more decks such as Mythic, GW Trap, WW and others, but I’ve already laid out quite a bit of information. For those who haven’t been keeping up with Extended, think of this as your primer and for everyone else your refresher course in how the metagame is adapting week to week. And since it’ll be overlooked by the Atlanta results, for those who missed the online PTQ this weekend the results of the top eight were: 2x Red, UW control, 2 GR Valakut, 2 Faeries and single Ooze deck (played by the same guy who plays it in every PTQ). Right now Extended is wide open with a top tier consisting of Faeries and Omen decks, with at least ten other decks vying for competitive shots at winning a PTQ.
Thus far Besieged hasn’t had anything that looked particularly groundbreaking for Extended, but had a few upgrades that I’ll get into next week. If this holds true, it should be very interesting to see how the rest of the format plays out over the next couple of months with few other major tournaments and just weekly PTQ results to go by. Good luck to everyone and enjoy your Mirrodin Besieged prereleases.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom
Bonus section: In other news, the greatest Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 match ever went down not that long ago, a 15k money match, so if anyone has some time to kill I suggest taking a look. Especially if you’re a fan and know MvC3 is coming out in February. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVTdAOb54xI