Since the only major Extended tournament to take place under the new rotation policy, Pro Tour Amsterdam, we have lost Time Spiral block and gained Scars of Mirrodin. Although many of the popular decks from Amsterdam will be back, the rotation has changed the format a great deal. Before we dive into the decks we can expect to see come day 3 of Worlds, let’s have a quick look at which cards have left.
First up, and probably most importantly, is Grove of the Burnwillows. The Punishing Fire enabler was one of the most popular strategies at the Pro Tour, being seen in everything from 5 colour control to Jund to Scapeshift. The loss of this card is not going to take that much away from any deck in particular but rather enable a whole swath of decks that would just fold to the recurring burn spell.
Another card leaving us that will not kill any deck but weaken many is Tarmogoyf. Arguably the best creature ever printed, ‘goyf was another extremely popular card that appeared in a wide variety of decks. There are other good 2-drops out there but nothing to match the power of everyone’s favourite lhurgoyf.
The suspend spells, such as Restore Balance and Living End, are gone which kills off those decks completely. Other notable cards which are gone include Mystical Teachings which will fundamentally alter the control decks, the Pact cycle, Damnation, and Angel’s Grace which spells the end for Ad Nauseum.
As for which cards from Scars of Mirrodin will see play, your guess is as good as mine, but I would expect a fair few to make a showing such as Mox Opal in any Time Sieve / Open the Vaults / Affinity type decks. The dual lands are likely to be widely adopted, and I would expect Ratchet Bomb to be fairly popular. It’s quite possible that Mimic Vat will be seen alongside the evoke elementals such as Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter and Reveillark. Trinket Mage is back and will no doubt make an appearance alongside some of the 1-drop artifacts such as Nihil Spellbomb.
So, those are some of the cards that have come and gone, but which decks are likely to be popular? Let’s have a look at some of the options available starting with some of the surviving decks from Amsterdam before I speculate on a new deck or two that might have some potential.
The deck that won the Pro Tour is bound to be popular, and lost very little. Flagstones of Trokair gave Steppe Lynx a little extra punch and Mana Tithe was a nice trick when people didnt know about it but they aren’t major losses. It’s possible that Windbrisk Heights will be brought in, although the fact that it enters the battlefield tapped could be too much of a drawback. White Weenie is the kind of deck that can be a victim of its own success in that it can be hated out to an extent, as even though this is one of the most resilient weenie decks seen in a long time there are only so many wrath effects that it can fight through. I’d be surprised if this deck can match its impressive win percentage from Amsterdam.
The interaction between Murmuring Bosk and fetchlands gives Doran a very strong manabase, and now that Punishing Fire is gone I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tarmogoyf replaced by Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch to make it even better. Alternatively Loam Lion could get cut and goyf be replaced by another aggressive 2-drop. An abysmal matchup against White Weenie, at least in Amsterdam, would be the main concern for those going with Treehouse.
4 or 5 Colour Control:
We all know vivid lands plus Reflecting Pool equals cast whatever spells you like, which is apparently quite good. The loss of Mystical Teachings is a blow but the tools are there to make a great control deck. Cruel Ultimatum is perhaps the strongest endgame available in extended, and nobody would argue that Cryptic Command and Jace arent amongst the strongest cards in the format. Perhaps not the best choice for an undefined metagame like we will see in Chiba but likely a solid choice for PTQs in the spring.
Lost Punishing Fire to help grind out long games but still the de facto combo deck of the format. The Polymorph sideboard plan is still a possibility too. Bad matchups against Doran and White Weenie could make this a dangerous choice, but with a positive record against basically everything else in Amsterdam this could be the weapon of choice for players needing to 6-0 on day 3.
As resilient as ever, Jund loses goyf and punishing fire, not that all the decks played it. The scars lands really help out with the manabase here. Jund is, along with 4-cc, arguably the most customisable deck and can be built to combat whichever decks you want to beat. Spell based combo decks, which are amongst Junds worst matchups, will likely be less popular since Ad Nauseum is gone and Scapeshift loses alot of its edge so I would expect a strong showing from Bloodbraid Elf and co.
Despite a poor showing in Amsterdam I expect there will be a fair few fae pilots at Worlds. The scars lands really shine here, but win rates under 50% against all of Doran, Jund, White Weenie and Pyromancer Ascension at Amsterdam make this a hard choice to justify.
People will always play this regardless of whether it’s any good or not. Worlds will be no different and if the Amsterdam results are anything to go by it wont see a great deal of success, as the only deck it beat with any consistency was faeries.
This deck loses a lot, possibly enough to kill it as a real deck. The core is still there, but the loss of Punishing Fire, Harmonize and Search for Tomorrow might be too much. Could move towards Primeval Titan if that turns out to be fast enough.
Elves has been getting a fair bit of press and could be well represented, possibly incorporating the combo of Ezuri and Devoted Druid. Other decks being talked about include Cascade Swans and Elementals. No doubt there will be a lot of new decks out there that most people havent even considered, but that is the beauty of a new and relatively unexplored format!
So, what to make of all this? Given the cards and decks which have left I would expect, unless there is some breakout deck that has been kept off the radar, that Doran, Jund, 5-cc and Pyromancer Ascension to be the most popular decks. White Weenie will be there but not in great numbers as people will be gunning for it, with faeries, mono-red, and elves also showing up in some numbers.
Stop Press! — Bonus deck!
About a month ago I won a small Extended tournament in Altrincham with this:
If you think the interaction between Fauna Shaman and Vengevine is good, wait until you start chaining Demigods! Fauna Shaman and Lotus Cobra are both must kill 2-drops, and your top-end threats just provide so much value. My favourite thing about this deck is the keyword that appears on each of Bloodbraid Elf, Vengevine, and Demigod – Haste. I love Haste, I think it’s a very underrated ability. This deck can attack for a ton of damage very quickly. Kitchen Finks could be Boggart Ram-Gangs to fit with that theme but those pesky ouphes are just so good against so many different strategies that I dont think I can leave them out. The manabase still needs some work, I never really had any problems but it could certainly be improved, most likely by including more of the Scars lands.
Given the sheer number of artifacts in Scars of Mirrodin, and the presence of the Esper cards from Shards of Alara, it seems very likely that an artifact based deck such as Time Sieve, Open the Vaults or affinity could be playable. The core of the first two is already in place from previous Standard seasons, though affinity would have to be built more or less from scratch.
Given the Pros self confessed propensity to neglect testing Extended in favour of drafting and Standard I expect most players to run with one of the established decks rather than come up with something new, and so this overview of Extended will hopefully give you a good guide as to what you can expect to see come day 3 of Worlds.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your thoughts,