At the Root: Planar Chaos in Extended
By Stefan Preiml on January 31st, 2007 · Filed in Extended (Type 1.x) · Comments not available just now
It's always necessary to take a look at the cards of a new set and look at how they could influence the various formats. The writers of MTGSalvation are back again for Planar Chaos to give you an inside look at the new cards and what they can bring for your deck. This article here is, of course, for Extended and I hope I can help you a little as the PTQ season is in progress (and I myself am planning on attending three of these).
Rooting for Your Team
Know your rootsThe card that most people are talking about at the moment is Extirpate. Essentially this card is an uncounterable Mini-Haunting Echoes and therefore fearsome on its own as it can give any kind of control deck a very hard time. It’s even worse for combo decks, especially ones that rely on the graveyard.
Most control decks only have one set of a single card to kill or need another card to keep the opponent from taking the deck out too fast. Removing the namesake card from an opposing Psychatog Deck or the Scepters from NO Stick can destroy them quite easily. Sunny Side Up, which relies on returning a single card from its graveyard over and over, is almost as good as dead, and decks that rely on Life from the Loam will have a tough time ahead as well.
This card proves once more how powerful split second is, but of course you need to get the card you want to get rid of into their graveyard first. The other split second cards, namely Krosan Grip and Sudden Shock, should be your primary weapons here but not necessarily the only ones.
However, recently the combination of Counterbalance and Sensei's Divining Top has emerged in Extended and this is truly one of the few things that can actually take care of Extirpate as it is played. Other countermeasures include removing opposing Extirpates with your own or just plain old Discard. Another puzzle for the creative deckbuilders out there.
Get yourself this card as soon as possible if you are planning on playing any black once Planar Chaos rotates into the Extended format. If you are planning on playing combo, you may want to stock up on your Orim's Chants, as this can also secure you the possibility to go off without being bothered by this card. Mana Short might also be an interesting solution.
Don't be expecting too many Dredge cards being played in the near future. Tormod's Crypt was a tough punch, but this card is just devastating.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
To hell in a bucket!Second to the buzz of Extirpate is probably Damnation, another Black card and rumored to be the savior of the Tog Deck. I believe that this is a little too much hype with the rise of split second, an ability you could think that was designed to beat Psychatog, but Damnation is still a very good card.
Wrath of God is mandatory in any White control deck against creatures. There has been a little improvement in White's spot removal department thanks to Condemn, but the angry god is still the best card to keep creature decks in check.
Black, on the other hand, has a very fine stock of spot removal cards that are normally cheaper and faster than Damnation. Of course, to make a Black deck an effective creature killer you have to spend more slots for creature kill cards. In recent years most black decks rarely had more than four of those and have been relying on other measures to be prepared for the advancement of other decks, such as counters (in Psychatog), discard, or just playing creatures of your own.
There is the possibility that this might be included in more controllish Rock builds, but there is already strong competition in the form of Pernicious Deed and Control Rock has rarely seen much play lately. Most Rocks have too many creatures to effectively use a Wrath that isn't selective, prevents regeneration, and can't be used as an oversized Naturalize if needed.
Wrath is a necessity in White Control decks as there is practically nothing else worthy of play against creatures, but Damnation is more or less a very good sideboard card that might find its way into some main decks.
Aggression as a Profession
Black aggressive or semi-aggressive decks have gained a lot with Extirpate which works wonders against Combo and Control, yet some kind of Suicide Deck except for Friggorid still seems out of reach, and that deck is very packed to begin with. But Red and Green may have found a few new tricks in the newest set of cards as well.
One Bloody KnightThe prime candidate is, of course, Blood Knight. Although probably not as prolific in Extended as in Standard, where Condemn is a much more accepted way of taking out creatures, this guy is still a force to look forward to. He is capable of passing by Silver Knight and other high profile white creatures such as Exalted Angel or Eternal Dragon, and is still untargetable for the best burn spell in the format, Lightning Helix. Also he can't be Slided. Although not as removal-safe as his White cousin mentioned before, this guy is capable of many things and should be tested extensively.
Next in the line would be Groundbreaker. Many, many people have talked about this guy as the Ball Lightning Extended was waiting for. But unlike Red, Green doesn't have any burn to speak of and the 'breaker will not push the opponent too far into range. Accelerating first turn into this card is also not a very good strategy. This card is very shaky, but if high profile pump such as Stonewood Invocation continues to emerge, this might find a nice home. The fact remains that Blistering Firecat is still in the format and sees practically no play at all.
Another card it is hard to make a verdict about is Fatal Frenzy. The long awaited heir of Berserk is a tough candidate. Not that it would be too expensive. Three mana is in my opinion rather cheap for 4 damage and more; the problem is to find creatures you want to Berserk. Almost all creatures that see play have power 2 or grow to sizes where you don't need to Berserk them for victory, such as Terravore. But this could already have a home in Affinity. Although the deck is hated all around these days, before the big rotation, it used to play Fling and the effects of the two cards are very similar for the purpose of the deck.
Another card that shouldn't go unmentioned is Boom // Bust. You can easily fall for the Bust part and dismiss this card as too expensive. Four mana was okay for Armageddon, but 6 may be unplayable in Extended. But the real breaker here is Boom. It is nice for land destruction to be able to take out an Equipment or deal 2 damage as you go, but the purpose of it is really to keep the opponent without mana. Boom does this even faster and only costs a single Red while lacking the disadvantage of Raze. In the end, the opponent is delayed another round while you swing with your Lion or whatever, and you have another card in your yard for the Lavamancer. With 10+ Fetchlands and Bust in your deck, it’s really just a bonus, but this has to be tested and there is a neat little trick with your fetches. Target your own fetchland and an opposing normal land with Boom, sac your land in response, and you got yourself a two-mana Stone Rain. The same thing goes with Flagstones of Trokair, except you get the land after the Boom resolves.
Control: Alt! Delete?
Monkey Business"With so much going on for aggressive decks, where is the love for control?" you might ask. It's true, nothing too crazy has happened for this archetype, but still a few useful cards can be pressed out of Planar Chaos.
The most unusual suspect in this category would be Pongify. In its favor, it’s a very cheap, permanent, BLUE removal spell. Using this card is very interesting. Say you stare down a 16/16 Terravore or a Psychatog with the capability of growing to a lethal size. This card Fogs them for a turn and leaves them 3/3 for the rest of the game. The token is Elephant-sized, but even Condemn has its downsides, is more conditional, and their potential is almost the same.
Another card to be aware of is Magus of the Bazaar. Recycling your lands is now even easier, and filling your graveyard can come in more than handy. Unfortunately, 0/1 is not really a power-toughness pair to be proud of, especially in Extended. This guy will only pop up in a deck where its entire potential can be used, which more or less forces you to build around him, making him more of a burden in your deck.
The Magi in PC really have very, very much potential. Magus of the Tabernacle is a tough task for most aggressive decks, with the big butt and forcing the upkeep on creatures, but probably not good enough, as the decks like Opposition that force more creatures than they can handle on the board can actually generate the mana for them. It could be a good foil for Flow Rock though if you can reach four mana fast enough. Crovax on the other hand can be pretty devastating for Goblin or Insect tokens, but at 6 mana is very expensive and doesn't help against Savannah Lions or Goblin Legionnaire.
Voidstone Gargoyle also deserves a mention as his cousins Meddling Mage and Pithing Needle all are staples in Extended that often keep things in check. But at five mana, this guy comes in a little too costly, even equipped with a 3/3 flying body. My honest belief is that this card would see lots of play as a 2/2 with no evasion for four mana, but five is a little too much in this format. But he is still testworthy.
The last in the row of big White creatures this set apparently has a lot of is Calciderm which has its own little thing going on being untargetable for removal, and with almost no Edicts being played this card looks like a formidable threat, since the opponent can't block and burn. But the Troll nullifies this card. Still expect it to see at least a little play as it buys you a ridiculous amount of time against Boros.
On the other end, Green seems to be bubbling up as a control color thanks to its newfound power in card drawing, but Concentrate doesn't see play and Harmonize will probably see the same fate in Extended. Magus of the Library, on the other hand has so much potential it's almost scary, and he could possibly be an addition to your average Slide deck.
Last but not least, Kismet is back as Frozen Aether, but lock decks these days rely on Isochron Scepter, and cards that keep your opponent from untapping are rather hard to come by.
Not Very Combolicious
Gerrard StewPlanar Chaos is a gruesome set for any true Johnny out there. Even finding non-game-ending but useful two card combinations is tough to come up with in this set, and an "engine" is right out. The only real engine card is Null Profusion, which rarely saw play in its first incarnation, Recycle. However, this time it is in a color that lends itself a lot better to combo decks. This card can even more ease your effort in accomplishing a ritual-based critical storm count and due to flashback or cheap regrowth effects such as Shrouded Lore this could be really worth it, but as for all engine cards, the deck around it has yet to be built.
Speaking of Shrouded Lore, this is one of the most interesting cards in the entire set, as long as you are capable of controlling the size of your graveyard. Withered Wretch and Scrabbling Claws easily come to mind here, but there aren't many decks that want these cards in them and never was the demand for Regrowth-like cards as low as it is today.
Lastly there is Simian Spirit Guide, another potential card in the tradition of Red fast mana cards of recent years, but unlike the rest, this guy doesn't count toward the storm of the spells you want to empower and it is rather shaky to make a verdict on this one.
Lots-o-SapsAnd now for the finish, a few other cards that deserve a mention:
Mire Boa: Good card, but green has better beaters at the moment.
Seal of Primordium: With Krosan Grip in the format, this isn't good enough.
Reckless Wurm: Madness doesn't need a second set of Arrogant Wurms.
Stonecloaker: Coffin Purge with buyback. White's best pointable Graveyard removal.
Mana Tithe: Just a surprise Force Spike, but will see even less play.
Brute Force: Red has enough good burn.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: Will replace a Swamp in any deck that wants this card, but who does? Oh, Cabal Coffers.
Temporal Extortion: Only good with creatures on the board and black creature decks are too tight at the moment.
Ovinize: See Pongify, just not as good.
Life and Limb: This plus Opposition could become critical.
Extirpate is truly the premier card for Extended play in this set and might outshine a lot of others, but this set really has its hidden gems and tricks. As always, it needs a whole lot of testing for a card to make the jump into this bursting format where almost any deck has problems to make space once a very good card emerges.
Although Planar Chaos doesn't really give us a brand new archetype to explore, or at least nothing that is obvious, it has a few healthy additions for the format and may beat a few decks just by its presence. This will have to be seen once the set rotates into the format and in subsequent tournaments. Have fun testing!
By Stefan Preiml on January 31st, 2007 · Filed in Extended (Type 1.x) · Comments not available just now
About Stefan Preiml
I was born in a small town in southern Austria and went there to school till I was 14. Then I transfered into a technical school in carinthias capitol Klagenfurt making my "Matura" (A-Level Exam) at the age of 19. I'm currently studying Informatics at the University of Klagenfurt. I started playing Magic in the summer of 2003 after some friends from school played in the school and I played a small scale CCG about The Simpsons before.