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By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Sep 12 2011 7:22am
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The title is obviously a bit of a troll, but Overextended occurred.  Pro Tour Philadelphia was a thing and it was a good thing.  Now, does everyone like a format that is three combo decks and threeish aggro decks?  Basically, no.  I do.  You may or may not.  The pros seemed to once they had settled the fact that control wasn't much of an option.  So what do you need to go going forward?  Here are the top (18 points or better) decks from PT Philly.

Some explanation is needed.  Steam Vent decks are basically three different combo decks: Splinter-Twin, Pyromancer's Ascension, and Hive Mind in order of popularity and success.  Zoo decks are basically not Zoo decks any more; in play-style they're closer to something like the old PT Junk decks that had some disruptive elements and fat critters to get the job done.  In fact, a better comparison might be the Dump Truck decks from back in the day sporting Exalted Angel.  They frequently eschew Red altogether (which is blasphemy for Zoo) for Blue, or maybe play Lightning Bolt and/or Lightning Helix and Mountains for Wild Nacatl, but otherwise pass on the Red cards (such as Tribal Flames which was everyone's first instinct entering this format).

The Post decks were under-represented compared to what we've seen on MTGO in DEs, but that may have been a function of decks like Shoal (aka Poison blends) and the various Blue Zoo decks that seem to have a chance in that matchup plus the fact that Steam Vent decks seem to be the control deck in this format; by playing Remand and some other control elements, the Steam Vent decks can slow down Post decks and aggro decks just enough to untap and combo them out.  It's a pity that Krosan Grip isn't legal in the format!  Oh wait.  Grip wouldn't smash all of the Splinter-Twin decks but it would surely slow them down a lot!  Combust similarly is a punch in the nuts for these decks; instead Pros went with the "amazing" splash for Flashfreeze in their Zoo decks!  This does admittedly smash 12Post if that's your concern, but the dedication to beating Post came at the cost of getting laughed at by Splinter-Twin in the finals.


Where does the format go from here?  I liked Antonino De Rosa's Death Cloud list as I'm sure Claytor loves it too:



Between Smallpox and Death Cloud it seems like there is an underexplored area in the meta; attack the hand and the land.  Why was this missed?  Historically it takes a special kind of player to play a deck that has you sacrificing a ton of permanents on purpose. This isn't always incorrect!  If there were a ton of sweet Blue cards to play in a controlling manner, Pox effects can be terrible!  One Counterbalance lock could end your day!  One Jace could smash your face!  One Ancestral Visions could draw them the three Pox'd cards away!

Luckily, those cards are all banned right now.
Other than that, if you do want to beat 12Post, play Poison (probably Sam Black's Blue build) and then don't get on the draw on purpose against Zoo. 


Sam smashed 12Post, then seemed to give away the match against Zoo by choosing to draw twice.  By being on the draw, he appeared to give away games when he could have threatened turn two or three wins on the play as opposed to letting Zoo play a 1-drop then sit back on removal and counters to keep Sam down. 

What to play right now?  Something that outraces Post (or stops it) while removing Splinter-Twin targets every time the opponent tries to go nuts.  I would say Poison (Blue) does seem like the nut choice right now with free counters and free kills.   Past that, consider Splinter-Twin with Combust for the mirror.

I firmly expect unbannings soon; the problem right now is that Wizards has a hard task in unbanning something controlling that will let Control flourish in the meta without increasing either Poison or a Steam Vents deck or even 12Post.  For example, let's unban Jace TMS: suddenly Splinter-Twin sits back, resolves a Deceiver, then untaps and plays Jace to sit behind the Deceiver, bounce enemy guys, and draw insane cards.  Do the theoretical Blue-X control deck have a stronger game than that?  I'd argue that cards like Sensei's Divining Top and Ancestral Visions should be unrestricted: They're much less useful to combo decks than they are to the control decks who can build around them and Visions especially is much less interesting in a format with both Remand and Chalice of the Void played heavily.

As far as the Steam Vents decks went, there are three variants to be aware of: Splinter-Twin, Pyromancer's Ascension and Storm builds, and Hive Mind.  There is some overlap between all three builds.  Splinter-Twin was frequently jammed in a sideboard of the last two, and the last two frequently shared many of the same spells; it's just a question of finishers between them.  Other notable maindeck options were Grove of the Burnwillows and Punishing Fire engines.


The champ had so many counters that it was absurd and post-board he had more if he wanted them!  His Firespouts seemed like a decent choice entering the tournament, but Firespout as a card was widely panned; very few people actually played Domain Zoo!  

Finkel's back, back again.  Finkel's back, tell a friend.


Not much to say here other than it's awesome that Jon came back and T16'd another Pro Tour.  His deck is a Storm build that still has 3/4 of possible Pyromancer's Ascension too!  His feature-match smokin' of Patrick Chapin was amazing.  This was a nice exclamation point on the weird week that he had gone through.   

Again, we see a regrettable addition to Magic rear its ugly head both supporting a combo (Pact of Negation) and kill (any Pact + Hive Mind).

Going back to the pie chart (mmm pie) at the top, you have to have a plan to beat UR decks and to beat Zoo decks.  If that is a correct conclusion (and the data seems to support it), then your best bet is probably Counter-Cat.  ChannelFireball's team deck seems to handle the Zoo mirror fairly well and has plenty of options against Splinter-Twin.

Let's step back: Is control currently unplayable?  Not really, it just doesn't enjoy it's normal edge against the field.  The top decks in Standard lately start with Caw-Blade and UB and Primeval Titan which all are controlling decks to one extent or another.  I'd call them aggro-control, control, and control-combo, but these decks are all basically the control deck against decks like RDW, Boros, Infect, MonoBlack (Caw-Blade probably becomes aggro here), Splinter-Twin and Pod (again, Caw might be the aggro here too), and so forth.

In extended, 12Post and Splinter-Twin really are playing a traditional control start; either ignore or slow down the early jank an opponent plays out, maybe deal with it with something like Firespout or maybe just play an absurd trump like a Titan or a kill-you-dead 2-card combo!  These decks are not typical control decks, but why does control have to be in every format with counterspells and board control?  The traditional controls decks can succeed (I grouped a few in among the "rogue" category above), but without having a fantastic edge against most of the field, pilots don't immediately dismiss any deck that doesn't let them "outplay" (aka play better cards) their opponent!  Sam Black, as an example, played a ton of Faeries during their time in various formats.  He played an insane poison aggro/combo deck whose individual cards almost all suck!  How fantastic is that!

The last point is that this tournament emphasized the importance of knowing who is the beatdown in a match and correcting mistaken ideas on who the beatdown is as you play.  In the finals, Josh Utter-Layton seemed content to try to sit back and make Samuele have enough combo options to beat him!  Samuele was okay with that and did so!  Josh had some bad hands, but he needed to be more aggressive to have a chance to win that match!  In fact, he seemed to realize this and almost finished Samuele in Game Four before he died on the last turn.

I understand that many people just want to play the sweet control deck with good cards that have some synergy (a.e. they're all good!) but it is okay to have one warped format where the best decks aren't traditional control piles!  I hope you enjoyed the Pro Tour as much as I did!  While the meta isn't perfect, I think we might see some of the more harmless cards on the ban-list come off such as Chrome Mox, (Ancestral Visions), and Sensei's Divining Top, so that would be a positive thing too.  What did you think?  Should the format be changed via unbannings (or even bannings?  Nah!).  Thanks for reading!


About Jace by Ivo at Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:37
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I don't think combo decks want to run Jace - even Splinter Twin, which is rather more controlling than the other UR combos is unlikely to want it. Even if they do, the Mind Sculptor has proven to be not overpowered in a format where games finish turn 3 often. Even Stoneforge should come off based on power level, even when it goes right it is just a turn 3 4/4 lifelink vigilance swinging on turn 4. Compare that to several - or indeed, arbitrarily large number - of tokens swinging on turn 3 or 4 (from Empty the Warrens on turn 2 or 3, or Splinter Twin on turn 4). But I don't mind too much if Stoneforge stays banned for a while longer to see if people stop judging Modern power levels based on either Standard or Legacy performances (the lack of FoW etc. changes a lot).

I think that there is no reason whatsoever to leave a lot of cards in the ban list, and I think that the format can have a healthy representation of all 3 major archetypes with just unbanning stuff and that is what I defend. Just as we had in Overextended, even with Stoneforge and Jace control wasn't dominating, there was plenty of Aggro and Combo doing well. If WotC decides to not unban any control cards I will know this format is not for me.

As a "proof" that Overextended was extremely relevant, people that knew Overextended were able to very reasonably predict the metagame before the PT. There are some slight variations but it was pretty much correct: 12-post, UR combo, anti-combo Zoo and little control.

I personally didn't expect Splinter Twin to show up as better than the red ritual based combos, but I also didn't fully expect that the format would be SO combo dominated with SO little control - and Twin as a more "control-combo" benefits against the other combos I guess. There was even a Blazing Shoal deck (not nearly as tuned as Sam's) in Overextended as well. I actually said that Zoo was going to go more anti-combo, but I imagined more Canonists, Teegs and other creature hate instead of outright permission or Rule of Law - but that is what seems to work better (and a strong sign that a true blue permission deck should be allowed to power-up with Jace and Vision as options at least).

Finally I'm not sure the pros generally liked the format that much as there are several comments that make me think the opposite - particularly articles (that include Zvi's on SCG) arguing for changes to the ban list.

I know that Overextended had by walkerdog at Mon, 09/12/2011 - 20:50
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I know that Overextended had information, but the DEs tuned the format much more quickly. Plus I like to tweak people if I can :).
I think we can see some unbannings, but the point I was getting at was how can we unban control cards that won't immediately just go into combo decks anyway.

LSV (aka the best in the world and much more relevant than Zvi, who, while a brilliant mind, doesn't play that much at a PT level anymore):

"It was a good trip, and our first exposure to what I think is a very good format."

In fact, most complaints about the format end up like Todd Anderson from his last article:

"Just to give you an example of how hostile the format was, the StarCityGames.com booth at the event sold 40 copies of Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker on the Friday before the tournament."

What? The format is hostile because a 2/2 for five that is part of a combo is in the format?????

Or this gem:

"Don't let Blazing Shoal be a real card in Modern. Please, for the love of the game, just let me cast Stoneforge Mystic and call it a day"

Basically, the ones who got blown out complained about the format a lot while the ones who didn't have a terrible tourney seemed to enjoy Modern.

For Sam Blacks giving away by whiffy at Mon, 09/12/2011 - 13:34
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For Sam Blacks giving away the match.

There was an article by someone on SCG that helped test sams match up. It may have been drew levin. They came to the conclusion that sam was in dire straights, they lost 10 straight postboard games when they were on the play, and only lost 6 games of 10 when they were on the draw. The match up was very grindy and having that 1 extra card was the difference they needed to get sam 2 wins at all in the top 8 against josh.

I also loved the antoni de rosa's deck. i would prolly play it in modern if i had the cards.

liked this article a lot guy, and i feel like you redeemed your self from the 4 paragraph counter top deck.

Thanks for the info on Sam's by walkerdog at Mon, 09/12/2011 - 20:51
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Thanks for the info on Sam's strategy. Thanks for the props too.

"I also loved the antoni de by apricio at Tue, 09/13/2011 - 21:25
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"I also loved the antoni de rosa's deck. i would prolly play it in modern if i had the cards."

Please do! :)