Crucible of Words: My Personal Extended by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words: Extended in the New Year by Cyrus Bales

This week I’d like to share with you an extended deck I’ve been working on and played in a PTQ this weekend just gone, including a tournament report of how it fared. Since I’m doing both a deck tech and a tournament report, this is a rather long article, you’ve been warned.

For a while, I’ve been toying with the idea of a black and red deck, centred mainly around black. I originally ran blue as well for tools like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but found them unnecessary. Before long I had moved into just black red, as this colour combination has all the tools needed to crack extended, removal in the form of Lightning Bolt, Terminate and the great hoser that is Volcanic Fallout. In terms of disruption, Thoughtseize and it’s ilk are fantastic, and when it comes to win conditions, Demigod of Revenge has it sufficiently covered. Another card I’ve considered fantastic, is Bloodghast, his ability to get round counter spells and single-handedly crush faeries whilst proving a reliable and consistent clock against most decks is amazing. Let’s take a look at the list.

The Abortion

4 Bloodghast
1 Shambling Remains
2 Skinrender
4 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Ashling, the Extinguisher
4 Demigod of Revenge
3 Sygg, River Cutthroat

4 Thoughtseize
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Volcanic Fallout
4 Terminate

4 Lavaclaw Reaches
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Graven Cairns
4 Dragonskull Summit
1 Reflecting Pool
2 Bojuka Bog
1 Mountain
5 Swamp

2 Skinrender
2 Shambling Remains
2 Anathemancer
3 Slave of Bolas
2 Memory Plunder
2 Guttural Response
2 Magma Spray

Now, because this is a homebuilt deck from the ground up, there’s a lot of choices to explain. I’ll do this systematically.

The manabase: I wanted to reliably cast Sygg, River Cutthroat and Bloodghast, as well as reaching for Demigod of Revenge as my finisher, as well as casting Volcanic Fallout. This meant I would keep just one Mountain in the deck as an option to find from Path To Exile, whilst the rest of the base had to produce black. This meant no Mutavault or Tectonic Edge, so I started with the duals, Lavaclaw Reaches is a great uncounterable threat that swings after your opponent’s Cryptic Command tap down, and enabling pump if needed. The other duals all made sense as well, and I could support six basics for a statistically untapped Dragonskull Summit by turn four. I went for 25 lands due to the Bloodghast triggers, casting Demigods, and pumping my Lavaclaw Reaches. The single Reflecting pool means you never get hurt by a double pool hand, but the biggest point of interest, is the Bojuka bog. This deck can happily drop this without too much tempo loss, since it’s turn four drops are light, so it’s a great way to remove Demigods and Vengevine whilst also shrinking Knight of the Reliquary, essentially a free answer to powerful cards.

The non-creature spells: These are pretty straightforward, Volcanic fallout is amazing against Naya, Mythic and Faeries, and can often break games. Lightning Bolt is fantastic reach, and removes many creatures, from the early Lotus Cobra to the activated Raging Ravine, it’s cost effective and powerful giving this deck an out against Great Sable Stag too. Terminate is another great answer, being able to remove almost any creature, and not being restricted by things like Doom Blade and Smother are. Finally, Thoughtseize, the best hand disruption available, letting you deal with problem cards before they have an impact, and giving you the information to make the best plays in coming turns.

The creatures: This is where people look on in curiosity. Demigod of Revenge is unquestionably a great finisher and deserves a spot, Sygg is another creature that people recognise as powerful, being able to enable some strong drawing power, casting Volcanic Fallout in a faerie player’s turn whilst they have Bitterblossom for example, draws you a card. With this guy in play, even the fae player ‘s Thoughtseize with Bitterblossom out will draw you a card. Then we come to Bloodghast, as I mentioned earlier, he is rather useful, and doesn’t mind dieing to Fallout in the slightest. Next up, Vampire Nighthawk, an unusual choice, but he is definitely useful, his lifelink allows him to race a Putrid Leech, his evasion not only helps him get damage in, but lets him block fliers using his death touch to kill demigods and Mistbind Clique. The nighthawk lives through a Fallout and can’t be touched by Doom Blade, whilst giving you a little bit of life gain to get back what you lose from the Thoughtseize as well as giving aggro decks a roadblock. Shambling Remains is no doubt giving you a confused expression, but I wanted a fifth three drop that lived through Fallout and pressed the attack, the unearth is a rather tasty inclusion that can provide a little bit of reach and card advantage. Skinrender is card that is surprisingly underplayed, his ability to create a two-for-one whilst dodging Fallout, Doom Blade and Smother is fantastic, not too mention being the perfect answer to Kitchen Finks, and in a push, you can kill your Bloodghast and bring it back again if you just need the body. The final creature is a singleton Ashling, the Extinguisher, this card often gets sniggers when cast, but her ability to live through Lightning Bolt, Volcanic Fallout, Doom Blade, Smother and still block Bloodbraid Elf without dieing is a definite advantage. Ashling’s ability means it has to be blocked by opponent’s, and allows you to remove the held back chump blockers for rather swingy turns, a surprising card, but a strong one.

The sideboard: More Skinrender for decks like Jund and Naya makes perfect sense, they happily kill off most guys, and provide you with at least a massive shrinking of their guy in the worst case scenario, an excellent two for one. The extra Shambling Remains are there for the 4 Colour Control match, applying more pressure early on wins that match up, and their recursion makes them problematic for them. Anathemancer, very strong against 4CC, and wonderful against Jund to surge through some damage and win a race, I only ran two since the 4CC decks are packing Leyline of Sanctity, so the Shambling Remains are often better. Slave of Bolas is possibly the most important card in the sideboard, it’s the single greatest answer to Wurmcoil Engine or a one of the M11 Titans that you can hope to draw, it’s power against Reveillark is noteworthy too, an utter game breaker. Memory Plunder, another odd choice, but having a potential Cryptic Command or instant speed Cruel Ultimatum against 4CC is very strong, and only running two means it’s always useful when you draw it, even if just to bounce a Leyline and turn on your Anathemancer. Guttural Response is a tried and tested answer to counter spells and the tap down from a Cryptic Command and needs little explanation. Lastly, Magma Spray, this was a last minute inclusion over an extra Shambling Remains and Anathemancer due to the increase of Red Deck Wins, being able to remove Hellspark Elemental efficiently is great, and the extra one drop removal means you should be able to stop them from pumping Figure of Destiny and kill off Ball Lightning if they run it.

Cards I am not running and why: Blightning is often the go to card for black and red decks, however in the current extended format, board position is much more relevant, and with Leylines around it’s another potential dead card. Not only this but so many decks run cards they don’t mind discarding, like Demigod of Revenge, Vengevine and some with Wilt-Leaf Liege and Obstinate Baloth it becomes a liability. Abyssal Persecutor, a very strong card, stops aggro in it’s tracks and single-handedly kills faeries, I would love to run him, but I do not have enough removal that can mitigate his drawback. Bitterblossom, arguably one of the best black cards in the format, I did run this in earlier blue-black-red builds, but found I was much happier to run Fallouts instead, and the two don’t play well together. More discard like Inquisition of Kozilek did cross my mind, I do like having it as a fifth Thoughtseize, but I didn’t really have room, and didn’t want to pollute my top-decking in the mid-late game.

I think that’s about it for explaining the deck, we can see how it has perfect tools to beat Faeries, plenty of removal to beat Naya and Mythic decks, as well as problem cards for Control decks, and a pretty even looking match up against Jund. Valakut is probably the most feared deck for me to face, although RDW can also be rather painful if I can’t stick the nighthawk, but I at least force them to rely on burn thanks to removal.



Round One – Jund (2-1)

Game one: I won the roll and decided to play. I dropped a second turn Sygg which met with a Lightning Bolt. He dropped a Putrid Leech and bashed for two damage a couple of times, whilst he was sitting on some removal. My life total dropped to eleven, then I played a Demigod and put him to 14 with my second Demigod and a Bolt in hand, along with my sixth land. He then swung with more guys and put me to two, however he was tapped out, so I dropped my Demigod, put him to two, then Lightning Bolt for the win.

Game two: I had a triple Thoughtseize hand, which was interesting, unfortunately after a lot of back and forth, my six life self infliction cost me the game as his Demigod ate me up.

Game three: Much more straight forward, I had an unanswered Nighthawk to press whilst he was left with his Putrid Leech, my removal kept his board reasonably empty until I could close with Demigod.

(Sideboard: -4 Volcanic Fallout, -1 Shambling Remains, +2 Anathemancer, +2 Skinrender, +1 Slave of Bolas.)


Round Two – Fairies (2-0)

Game one: I lose the dice roll, but my opponent mulligan to six on the play. I Thoughtseize away his Vendilion Clique, seeing his double Mistbind Clique in hand with not much other action. I have all the aggro, he has not a lot of game around my Nighthawk, I finish the game on 18 life.

Game two: This game he gets the Bitterblossom down, which eats away at him, my Bloodghast does his usual magic and presses the attack, Volcanic Fallout is the blow-out play that wins me the game, I finish on six life.

(Sideboard: -2 Skinrender, -2 Lightning Bolt, -2 Terminate. +2 Anathemancer, +2 Guttural Response, +2 Slave of Bolas.)


Round Three – Jund (1-2)

Game one: This was a rather good show of what my deck could do, my early Thoughtseize helped me along, my Nighthawk racing his Leech, I have the removal for his next play and Demigod ends it very quickly, I finish on 18 life.

Game two: My hand is a little slow due to comes into play tapped lands. We trade resources for some time, I manage to stabilise a little on 11, but he then knocks me down to five and has at this point Thought Haemorrhage my Demigods, shooting me for three in the process. After a while he’s left with just a leech and no cards in hand, I have two Skinrender in hand, a land, and Nighthawk on the board, I pass the turn. He then draws and casts Bloodbraid Elf into Maelstrom Pulse for the win. He was still on 20 life though, but I felt I could have stabilized given another turn.

Game three: This is an incredible game of magic. I Thoughtseize away a Great Sable stag, and Bolt his second one. We trade cards, and run each others resources out including me Skinrender-ing his Kitchen Finks. I eventually deal with his activated man lands and then we’re living off the top, but I have Ashling and Lavaclaw Reaches. I swing with Lavaclaw Reaches, keeping back Ashling to block a Bloodbraid Elf or Boggart-Ram Gang if he draws one since I’m on four life. I hit him down lower, we both draw land, I put him to 14, after drawing another land, he draws a Fauna Shaman. I draw a land, then swing to kill the shaman, keeping back my Reaches for emergency blocks if needed. Then he tops a land. I put him to seven with my Reaches after drawing land, leaving back Ashling to make his outs fewer. He then top decks his only real out, Demigod, game over.

(Sideboard: -4 Volcanic Fallout, -1 Shambling Remains, +2 Anathemancer, +2 Skinrender, +1 Slave of Bolas.)


Round Four – Faeries (1-2)

Game one: I win the roll whilst he has to mulligan. I start the attack early with Nighthawk after casting a Thoughtseize. I ride this Nighthawk a long way, and Demigod finishes things nicely.

Game two: I start off ok, keeping a three land hand with Thoughtseize, Sygg, Terminate and something else. I draw into some more land and when I get there, cast Demigod, he counters it before the trigger, so I get it back to attack, then I draw another one. Things are looking up, but his Bitterblossom is giving him chump blockers, a few back to back cryptic commands later, and I’m falling behind. Aside from the Demigods, I haven’t drawn a single spell yet in the game and we are past turn ten. Eventually the lack of action and his Cryptic Commands and Mistbind Cliques get the better of me, he wins on four life.

Game three: He begins aggressively, attacking with Mutavault, we spend a lot of time feeling the game out, I cast a few spells, but from turn four in, I’m stuck drawing lands again. I press with my Lavaclaw Reaches, but I don’t have much action, since my hand was removal heavy, I kill off a Mistbind and Mutavault, but I run out of cards as I draw more land and play my fourth Lavaclaw Reaches. It’s always annoying to get flooded or man screwed against your good match up, but I was happy my deck could make 5-2 and have a least a shot at playing tiebreaker roulette, but due to where my losses in the day came, I knew it was probably not a possibility.

(Sideboard: -2 Skinrender, -2 Lightning Bolt, -2 Terminate. +2 Anathemancer, +2 Guttural Response, +2 Slave of Bolas.)


Round Five: Esper Steel (2-0)

Game one: My opponent is on the play, I Thoughtseize away his Tidehollow Sculler whilst he beats me down with a Court Homunculus. I then kill his guy after not seeing much action in his hand, and drop my Nighthawk and ride it to victory alongside Bloodghast. He doesn’t play anything of much relevance to stop me, I can bolt his face to speed up my clock and win.

Game two: My opponent has to mulligan the five, he starts out with a Memnite, but his hand is pretty weak, I have the ability to remove all number of threats. He draw an Ajani Goldmane but has to wait a turn to find a creature to pump, it’s only an Ornithopter. My Ashling forces unfavourable blocks and I burn him out with Fallout and Bolts.

(Sideboard: -1 Shambling Remains, -1 Sygg, River Cutthroat, -2 Bloodghast. +2 Magma Spray, +2 Skinrender.)


Round Six: Faeries (2-1)

Game one: I’m on the play, I keep a three lander. My opponent by turn three has cast two Thoughtseize and an Inquisition of Kozilek. My hand is now pretty ropey at best, and my second red source for Fallout is not coming. He Tectonic Edge‘s my red source and I’m done for.

Game two: I play an early Bloodghast, then curve into Nighthawk. I steadily beat him down and have the Fallout when it’s needed. I finish on 21 life.

Game three: This was a much longer game. My hand was a little slow, but I had the fallout which enabled me to kill his Mutavault in response to championing, which also killed his Mistbind. I took a bit of a beating from his Bitterblossom which he soon cast before I get some threats out, but so does he, I deal with his Mistbind and now I’m in the realm of facing down manlands and faerie tokens. My life total as dropped to 9, his is at thirteen, but his Consuming Vapors kills my Nighthawk and I can’t find a land to bring back the Bloodghast. I misplay horrifically by casting Ashling into his rebound of the spell. Then I miss a Bloodghast trigger a turn or so later. I’m convinced I’ll lose due to these misplays. I eventually get back my Bloodghast and some more board presence with a second copy. He’s on 15, then he drops a Wurmcoil Engine with no mana open. I look at the Slave of Bolas in my hand and then everything seems alright. I steal his Wurmcoil, he blocks then Disfigures his own faerie to stop the lifelink. I sac his Wurmcoil and get the tokens, he doesn’t have the ability to kill me, so next turn I get to swing, at this point the game has swung in my favour and it’s over quickly, I had removal for his manlands in hand.

(Sideboard: -2 Skinrender, -2 Lightning Bolt, -2 Terminate. +2 Anathemancer, +2 Guttural Response, +2 Slave of Bolas.)


Round Seven: 4 Colour Control (2-1)

Game one: I’m on the play and I mulligan to six. My hand has some removal in, and Sygg. I drop my Sygg and get in some damage, and remove his Plumeveil to keep it alive. My draws don’t give me gas, so I’m stuck. I peg him for UW control at first since he only had blue and white vivid lands, Reflecting pools and Mystic Gate for lands. So I sit it out with my removal to at least kill his Baneslayer Angel or something. He soon drops a mountain, removes some counters from vivid lands, then casts Cruel Ultimatum. I could continue to play, but I decide the match up is good enough that I want to guarantee the time to finish it so I scoop and go to game two.

Game two: I play a Bloodghast, followed by a Nighthawk, I Guttural Response his Esper Charm to slow his development down and slowly beat him down. He plays a Leyline and a Jace, The Mind Sculptor, but they don’t dent my board at all.

Game three: Again I drop the might of Bloodghast, then I drop the Shambling Remains, before long his life total is slipping away, he has to double Volcanic Fallout to kill my Shambling Remains, and he’s now on 8 life. I bring back my Bloodghast. He’s ran himself out of card, he’s living off the top and draws Esper Charm, it finds him a land and Baneslayer Angel. He casts it, hoping it’ll stabilize his game. I untap and cast Slave of Bolas for the win.

(Sideboard: -4 Volcanic Fallout, -2 Skinrender, -4 Terminate, -1 Lightning Bolt. +2 Anathemancer, +2 Shambling Remains, +2 Memory Plunder, +2 Guttural Response, +3 Slave of Bolas.)


So I got to play tie-breaker roulette, and as expected I didn’t make the single spot that was up for grabs in top 8. However I do feel pretty happy with the deck, and with a little bit less bad luck, I could have won both of the match ups I lost, especially Faeries considering how favourable it is. I managed to avoid RDW and Valakut which was good, since I’m more unsure of how those match ups play out, but I would definitely say that this deck is indeed strong enough to take on most of the top tier decks. Unfortunately the format gets an influx of new cards before the next PTQ, but I’m sure some form of this deck will still be good enough to compete. In all honesty, I don’t think I could have made a better deck choice for this PTQ.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing,


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