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By: HydraLord, Charles Sutphin
May 17 2008 12:10am
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People are all caught up in the here and now. The Magic community is thinking about one of two things right now: Shadowmoor and Version 3. Most everything regarding the first one is positive, while everyone is bashing on the latter. Me? I’m not sure what to make of Shadowmoor…other than Faeries looks stronger than ever. That’s bad news for those of us who, well, like metagames with more than one real deck. Huh. I also am not nearly as angry about V3 as everyone else seems to be. It doesn’t interfere with my ability to game nearly as much as perpetual crashes did, so I’m willing to suck it up and deal with the awkward interface. But that isn’t really what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about something which is significantly further down the road: Extended. At least for a while, it will take a back seat to Standard and Block play. But come October, it's going to be a whole different animal. Might as well prepare early, right? Get things cheaper etc.

What’s Leaving

I imagine most everyone knows this, but this will be the smallest Extended rotation ever, with only Invasion and Odyssey blocks leaving. In particular, Onslaught and the fetchlands will be staying for another year. That might not seem like the biggest change in the world, but lets take a gander at the top twenty most played nonland maindeck cards from the PTQ season*:

  1. Tarmogoyf
  2. (Chrome Mox)
  3. (Cabal Therapy)
  4. (Sensei’s Divining Top)
  5. (Mogg Fanatic)
  6. (Dark Confidant)
  7. Vindicate
  8. (Pernicious Deed)
  9. (Birds of Paradise)
  10. Thoughtseize
  11. (Eternal Witness)
  12. Smother
  13. (Kird Ape)
  14. (Grim Lavamancer)
  15. (Umezawa’s Jitte)
  16. (Tormod’s Crypt)
  17. (Engineered Explosives)
  18. (Loxodon Hierarch)
  19. (Burning Wish)
  20. Putrefy

Of those, only five are rotating out. That doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Why are you making such a thing out of it? Well, maybe this list will mean more to you. These are the top twenty cards which are rotating out.

  1. (Cabal Therapy)
  2. Vindicate
  3. (Pernicious Deed)
  4. (Grim Lavamancer)
  5. (Burning Wish)
  6. Counterspell
  7. (Sulfur Vent)
  8. (Tinder Farm)
  9. Duress
  10. (Careful Study)
  11. (Barbarian Ring)
  12. Breakthrough
  13. (Putrid Imp)
  14. Ichorid
  15. (Ancient Spring)
  16. (Cephalid Sage)
  17. (Tribal Flames)
  18. (Living Wish)
  19. (Goblin Ringleader)
  20. (Goblin Matron)

Think about what that list means for us. At the top come three cards which play a major role in Rock and Doran decks. Obviously, midrange Black Green decks will continue to be played. It’s just one of those things that people love. But I feel like you lose so much of the incentive for playing the deck without Deed. Especially if you look down the list…Duress, huh? I just don’t know why you would play the deck without Deed and Duress. Even though Rock has trended towards increased aggression over the course of the season, GP: Philidelphia winner Gerard Fabiano packed both Deed and Vindicate as four ofs. It still needs board control, and I don’t know where that’s going to come from now.

Other decks also that a significant hit. TEPS – already on the decline – loses the Invasion sac lands and Burning Wish. So that’s pretty much gone. Enduring Ideal could probably deal with those losses, but it also misses out on Solitary Confinement. Ideal got a lot of value from running out a turn three Confinement while Lotus Bloom ticks down, just to buy a couple of turns against beatdown. That’s out the window. Obviously Ideal was a variably popular second or third tier strategy during its tenure in Standard, so it may continue to see play. But it will not be the same deck as this season. It will almost certainly be less consistent. Probably slower. Almost certainly not top tier.

Keep going down the list. We lose Careful Study, Breakthrough, Putrid Imp, and Ichorid. That sounds like the demise of Dredge, at least in its current incarnation. Again, there was a Standard version of the deck that was pretty popular. But it wasn’t that fast and was pretty contingent on keeping enabling creatures in play. Those are both liabilities that kept me from thinking it was really worth running in Standard, a format significantly less powerful than next year’s Extended. Personally I don’t think it’s going to be the business, but I could be wrong.

The next biggest loss is probably Counterspell. I am quite convinced that some level of blue deck was correct, at least for the end of the season. There was a deck that loved a Counterspell. It will go on without it I’m sure, but it won’t have the same punch. The Domain spells from Invasion – Tribal Flames (Editor's Note:  Tribal Flames is not leaving the format until Time Spiral rotates out.)  and (Gaea’s Might) – are also saying farewell. Domain Zoo was also on my short list of decks to play. This is a significant loss. It won’t kill the deck – especially since it has evolved away from leaning on (Gaea’s Might) – but it loses a measure of explosiveness. We’ll see how it works out.

The last big loss is the pair of Goblins, Matron and Ringleader. Personally, I wouldn’t want to play the deck now. I mean, you miss out on tutoring and giant card advantage. If it’s going to continue succeeding, it will have to be running (Patriarch’s Bidding). The thing is, that deck wasn’t even that awesome in Standard. I don’t think Frogtosser Banneret is enough improvement over that format…what are you gonna do about Tarmogoyf?

So that makes about five (maybe six) popular decks that die out. What about the other side of the equation? What is going to step in to fill that void. Well, dearest reader, you can learn if you move onto the next section.

What’s Moving Up

That was the half empty glass outlook. Let’s look on the bright side, shall we?  As some decks fade from prominence, others necessarily rise to take their place. I think that this is going to be one of the most exciting aspects of the new Extended. My baseline is a collection of updated old Standard decks that I thought were powerful at the time. If the last season has taught us anything, its that successful decks are not necessarily super ‘powerful.’ Having a worthwhile and focused plan, optimally one which kind of bypasses the hate of the format, is often enough to have at least some measure of game. For those of you living under a rock for the last, I don’t know, four years there are a lot of decks in that category. I’ll go over several of them here.


I feel this is very much the elephant in the room. It was undeniably the most powerful Standard deck in years. It’s been solid in Extended ever since. I think it will in many ways be the defining deck of the new Extended. Basically, it’s going to be the new Dredge. Affinity is really, really powerful, but there’s some very stiff hate to be faced. There’s the usual hate from Mirrodin block, though that only barely got there at the time. The real hate cards are (Kataki, War’s Wage), Ancient Grudge, and freaking (Hurkyl’s Recall). I don’t know if you’ve ever resolved the last of those against the Robot Monsters, but let me tell you. Things look really bad for them. All of a sudden they have 11 cards in hand and no permanents in play. Whatever technology they pick up will likely be designed to resist those sorts of hate cards. I’m thinking Tarmogoyf. Shocker, huh? What’s more impressive that a two mana 6/6? A two mana 6/7. Whatever Arcbound Ravager. It’s Lhurgoyf time. I feel like, at least for the first part of the season, you have to have game against this deck. So make sure you do.

U/X Tron

I say ‘X’ because there can be a lot of different things here. White is sort of the default choice, since Wrath of God is good. Shocker, huh? White gives a number of other powerful cards – Decree of Justice, Oblivion Ring, and Sunlance – useful for controlling the board. For this reason, white has been the most splashed color in Extended Tron decks. But what about other colors? If Wrath is what you’re interested in, black can hook you up just as well. If your goal in life is to lock up the game with Mindslaver, green is almost certainly the best strategy. Putting Life from the Loam in your Gifts Ungiven split is pretty savage. I actually love that strategy…we’re losing (Moments Peace), but otherwise, essentially all of these decks remain undamaged. Oh yeah. (Hurkyl’s Recall) is blue.

There’s also potential for maneuvering the Tron deck more into the direction of old Standard decks, where you really just want to Remand a spell, maybe Repeal something….then play Meloku the Clouded Mirror. Forget all that broken stuff. Actually, that sounds kind of miserable. Never mind. You can tell that this is stream of consciousness. Otherwise, that sort of thing would get edited out for sure.

Next Level Blue

This is the first deck which is not just a recycled Standard deck. But wait…didn’t it get weaker with the loss of Counterspell? Well, yes it did. But the combo of Counterbalance and (Sensei’s Divining Top) is really, really good. It isn’t quite a “lock”, but a lot of decks can’t really survive it. The best thing about this deck is that it’s full of insane cards. Tarmogoyf is teamed up with Vedalken Shackles. Then you counter all the spells they try to play. Sounds like a good time. I know people have voiced concern over Vexing Shusher and Flame Javelin, but I really don’t think that deck is going to cause problems for us. It might be annoying, but I can’t imagine it beating NLB long term. Really makes me wish I owned digital Goyfs.

Wait. So does every other deck for most of the next decade.

The last thing is a couple entirely “new” decks that I think will be successful after the rotation.

Heartbeat Combo

I’m not sure what this deck will look like. It can’t use the old Extended form, since we lose the recursive elements, Cunning Wish, and Fact or Fiction. So there has to be something else. I am not much of a combo designer, but it was definitely the best deck during at least part of its Standard tenure. Like Next Level Blue, there are a lot of good cards in the deck. It also opens itself up to a transformational board full of big creatures. That’s a pretty good bonus. Oh. And (Sensei’s Divining Top) is a dominator, especially with a bunch of shuffle effects. I don’t know what the win condition will be. I lean toward running a bunch of Brain Freezes, fueled by either Concentrate or (Forsee). I will be trying to work on that, but can’t promise anything. I just think that the fundamentals of the deck are very strong, which is a good thing to be in a wide-open format.


As long as we’re talking about decks that have lots of good cards, look no further than this one. Wrath of God. Firemane Angel. Lightning Helix. Demonfire. Single. Word. Sentences. Demonfire is probably my all time favorite finisher. It pulls you out of spots nothing else can save you from, especially counterspells. If NLB continues to be a big player, just Hellbent it up and win out of nowhere. Further, there are lots of good hate cards in these colors. For instance, you aren’t ever really going to lose to Affinity. Plus, since we still have fetchlands, the mana is awesome. Getting the picture? There isn’t anything broken in this deck, but it’s really powerful.

Taking a slight diversion, KarstenBotBabyKiller might see a resurgence. It still has Demonfire. It can still mess with the opponent’s game plan to get there. I’m not guaranteeing it, but its worth trying. Maybe.

So what cards should you pick up given the chance? I would get (Sensei’s Diving Top), Remand, (Hurkyl’s Recall), and a copy of the Urzatron. Personally, I will also be picking up a set of Early Harvest and Heartbeat of Spring. Buy them from MTGOTraders.com. </shamless brown nosing>

Charles Sutphin.


by iceage4life at Sat, 05/17/2008 - 19:34
iceage4life's picture

The mention of Angelfire seems totally random.  As far as decks like that go the Extended decks with Lightning Angel, Trinket Mage, etc seem much better.

by DRAGONDUNG at Mon, 05/19/2008 - 07:26
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Im not much of an extended GURU but angelfire could be a good extended deck with rotation.  It will gain access to some pretty good mana exel im not sure how it would do vs some of the faster aggro decks that are bound to show up but with fetch lands mana screw should not be a problem for it like when I played it in std.  Never know till someone gives it a shot. 

The trading issues really are a killer for those looking to dump IPA goodies they should just hang in there and play Classic. :)

Bit too basic by zahori (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 05/19/2008 - 10:30
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While the topic of the article is certainly interesting, I think it lacked enough depth in the analysis.  Two glaring ommisions in my opinion are the red burn deck and dragonstorm.  The former loses only barbarian ring, while the latter becomes the de facto combo deck in the format.  There were also some very interesting decks towards the end of last season, like Kiki-Pestermite, Faeries, and Ninjas that will require some evaluation come October.

Oh, and Goblin Bidding was one of the best decks while it was Standard legal.  Even after 7th rotated out of standard.  So your statement about it seems way off base.

Tribal Flames by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 05/17/2008 - 01:54
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Nice article, but Tribal Flames doesn't rotate out as it's in TS timeshifted.

by hamtastic at Sat, 05/17/2008 - 07:43
hamtastic's picture

With all the kerfluffle around V3 I think a lot of people have lost sight of the < 6 months rotation.  The only problem is, 1:1 trading has been jacked due to the myriad of trade issues (namely, there's no way for many players to search the single message board for cards).  This will likely put many people who were waiting to sell their IPA rares in a bind as they've suddenly lost their only avenue of selling their cards directly to others... forcing them to take the 'bot hit'.

A bad place to be for those who are there... 

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 05/17/2008 - 15:05
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I dont think angelfire is a legit extended deck. Especially with firemane angel. lol.

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 05/17/2008 - 16:48
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Pretty sure you missed the editor's note there.      

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