Slide is the New Aggro-Control
By Sean DeCoursey on September 14th, 2007 · Filed in Extended (Type 1.x) · Comments not available just now
Extended season is fast approaching, with PT: Valencia only a few weeks away. Many of you are just now beginning to test for the upcoming Extended season that will start this winter. I think that one deck that is missing from most gauntlets that shouldn't be is Slide. Slide is like the Rodney Dangerfield of decks: its won Worlds—TWICE, and everyone only discusses what it can't beat. No one ever talks about the raw power inherent in a three-card independent combo that lets you two for one your opponent while casting a cantriping Regrowth for one mana. I'm guessing a lot of you (OK, maybe one or two) thought about Slide and then decided against it. After all, the conventional wisdom on Slide is that it beats aggro, splits vs. control, and loses to combo. This assumes, of course, that Slide is built as a control deck.
It's a Goofy World and We're All Just Living In It
There can be only one, and it is me.In my not-very-humble opinion, the upcoming extended season is going to be about one card, and one card only: Tarmogoyf. Goofy and Tog have a relationship similar to Mirri, Cat Warrior and Troll Ascetic. In a one on one fight, Mirri smacks Troll around hard, being unblockable with Forestwalk, winning every fight with First Strike, and playing both offense and defense thanks to Vigilance. But in the context of the format, no one plays Mirri because Troll is so much better. Goofy is better than 'Tog in a lot of the same ways. (Although since Psychatog and Tarmogoyf are different colors and casting costs, the analogy is not a straight translation). 'Tog goes into a very narrow variety of decks; Goofy goes into anything with Green mana. 'Tog needs to consume resources to get big, Goofy is always big. 'Tog costs three mana of two different colors, Goofy costs the same as Grizzly Bears. Because the new Extended is all about Goofy, you need a way to ensure that you win all Goof/Goof battles. There are a variety of creative methods being employed to accomplish this—from Lava Dart to Mogg Fanatic to Darkblast, most of the said methods attempt to deal that final point of damage after the two Goofs have smashed into each other. While these methods do have the advantage of pretty much giving you the ability to eliminate X/1 creatures at will, they don't offer too much else in the way of flexibility.
Actually, Sienna is my preferred solution to all of life's So what's my solution to the Goyf domination issue? Astral Slide, of course. Slide not only ensures that you win all Goofy fights, it also ensures that you win all creature fights, period. The Slide archetype also gained a lot, and I do mean a lot, of goodies from Future Sight. The nature of the goodies gained from FS was a bit difficult to deduce at first, though. I was extremely excited to hear that FS was finally going to be bringing back cycling. I had eagerly looked through the first two Time Spiral block expansions hoping for more cycling cards. Unfortunately, they weren't there. Then, when FS came out, all of the cycling cards were completely worthless for control builds. I mean, Edge of Autumn? Only accelerates you early on then makes you sac a land in a very mana-hungry deck? Street Wraith? Yeah, it cycles for free, but it doesn't do anything else. At all. Ichor Slick? OK as an instant, but definitely not at Sorcery speed. Don't even get me started on the other cyclers . . . Wizardcycling? Slivercyling? Marshalling Cry? Come on. Where's my Unearth variant?
problems, including Tarmogoyf. But unfortunately,
she's not an option in Magic.
You see, control Slide is somewhat restricted by the fact that it has to run 4-6 board sweepers and four Gilded Lights; throw in the Witnesses, Slides, Loams, and cycling lands, and you've got most of the deck’s slots already decided for you. There's only so much you can do with that kind of limited space without sacrificing your aggro matchup, and combo will never be great since you have absolutely no clock. Thus it seemed like Slide's run of underappreciated but big tournament supported results was going to come to an end. That of course, was before the pieces fell into place for a complete re-imagining of Slide as . . . an aggro-control deck.
Free spells and effects are nice for a control deck to have, but they are the lifeblood of aggro-control, allowing you to play both offense and defense at the same time. Between Street Wraith and Edge of Autumn you've got seven free cyclers. I'm sure a lot of you are thinking something like, "hey, G/W Edge, Flagstones, good combo." Not so much in this deck. Slide just doesn't run that many basic Plains that you can pull for Flagstones, and the ones it does run are kind of necessary for protection from Destructive Flow. Of course, you know what's even better than Sliding something for free? Cantripping Shocks that cost . I really wanted this deck to be . I really, really did. But, its not. The deck functions just as well, and in some metagames better, as a deck. Yes, that's correct, you're getting two tuned and tested decklists instead of one here. Why two? Well, because after lots of testing and waffling on the issue, I've come to the conclusion that both decks are, if not equally viable, then close enough not to make much of a difference. Each has some unique strengths and weaknesses and can be better or worse depending on your particular metagame.
Old School Goblin killing style.The list for the new Slide looks, surprisingly enough, a lot more like the lists for Onslaught Block Slide than anything that's been good in extended before this. The differences however, are key. Whereas that version of the deck had absolutely no Graveyard hate, these decks have lots. Where that deck lacked disruption, these decks can lock someone out of playing spells, attacking or drawing cards. That deck lacked recursion; these decks have multiple sources of it.
What's White and Green and Red All Over?
Ok, points about the deck people probably don't like or are wondering about. First, Renewed Faith over Gilded Light? Yes, this deck isn't control—you don't need counterspells, and if you do, Chant does a fine job of it for what you need to counter. Also, Faith really helps offset the life loss from Wraith. Second, Tormod's Crypt in the board I get, but Samurai of the Pale Curtain? Yes, the graveyard becomes more of a threat with every set Wizards releases. You need lots of answers to it, and Samurai just destroys Bridge from Below decks. He gets the nod over Loaming Shaman because he also nails Affinity decks and is useful against TEPS. Third, no Avalanche Riders? Yes, that card sucks hard without Slide. Fourth, Street Wraith with no black mana? Yep. Free cyclers are sick beyond belief in conjunction with cycling enchantments. Between Faiths and Hierarchs you've got plenty of lifegain to offset the loss they cause. Fifth, no Wrath. Or any sort of mass removal. IT’S NOT FREAKING CONTROL ANYMORE!!!! You handle little critters with Rift, and big ones with your bigger dudes or Slide.
The Plow Unders in the board are more like filler than anything else. Any number of cards could be productively run here, from Engineered Explosives to Lightning Helix, although having some form of LD is extremely useful against Tron and other big mana decks. Dwarven Blastminer is a great card, but generally needs to be present as a 4-of to be truly effective.
The Dark Slide
The Black version of the deck plays a bit differently than the Red one. Black is more like a big fast creature deck that combines Slide with lots of removal to control the board while beating with one or two absurdly large cheap creatures, usually Exalted Angel or Tarmogoyf. The strength of the Black version is that there is nothing that gets to play that you cannot destroy.
OK, notes on what you probably don't like about this deck or are confused by in it. First, Explosives and Deed? Yep. They're sort of like mass removal that only hits your opponents' creatures. Most of the time though, they'll be point removal set at whatever number your opponent has that’s giving you a headache. You'll have an Angel or Hierarch out, and set them at two or three to clear a path/eliminate troubling opposing cards. They are also phenomenal at handling any number of tokens which may be bothering you. Second, Samurai over Leyline of the Void? Leyline does nothing if it’s not in your opening hand—thats only a 40% probability, and if it’s not in your opener you won't see it until around turn 4, which is too late against most graveyard decks in the format. Also, it’s much less useful in random matchups where you need/want more dudes. Third, only two Life from the Loams? It's a lot less useful in Black than in Red, where you're getting back three Shocks with it. Drawing it in multiples in Black sucks hard. Fourth, no Chants? In the board, Therapy does a better job vs. a wider variety of decks, and Plow Under combines very nicely with Vindicate to provide a solid LD suite.
Basically, the differences in the two decks boil down to a few simple points. Black gives you great spot and limited mass removal, plus more and bigger creatures. Red gives you a more cycling focused deck, more locks, and a way to win outside of the combat phase. Black has trouble if someone can lock up combat. Red has issues with problematic artifacts, enchantments, and lands. Red has maindeck answers to countermagic, while Black doesn't. Black can destroy things; Red can't. The Red version also has a slightly more stable manabase since it can fetch all of its basics with Wooded Foothills and Windswept Heath. Neither deck is exceptionally fast, as pre-board, turn 1 plays generally consist of land, go. Chrome Mox isn't present in these builds despite how excellent it is in control versions because you have fewer sources of card advantage in aggro-control than you do in pure control.
The various matchups play out differently depending on which version of the deck you're playing. I'm going to go over a variety of the more common decks you're likely to see in Extended this season, including some you might not be familiar with.
Matchups You Know
We'll start off with the old standbys from last season in their newer forms. Psychatog, Ichorid, and Boros Deck Wins.
Screw you Goyf. Oh, you're in my Psychatog: the deck now revolves around cheap creatures and multiple beaters. Most versions include the Trinket Mage package, as well as Dark Confidant and Counterbalance. Essentially mono-Blue, these decks splash a few Watery Graves to find with their fetchlands and some artifact lands to find with Trinket Mage, but generally the only Black you'll see in them is for Tog, Bob, and sometimes discard. Some versions of the deck have also gone back to the green splash for Goyf, Loam, and cycling lands as well.
deck now too? Great. Just Great.
Black: set Explosives to 0, 2, or 3. Zero only if Meloku has already come down or you see multiple Moxes. Two nails Counterbalance and Confidant, while three hits 'Tog and Mage. Three is generally the most useful to be set at since outside of 'Tog you don't really fear much of anything from this deck. Sideboarding depends on what you see game one: Leyline, Smother, and Extirpate are very likely to come in against you. Plow Under is a beating on Counterbalance, and while Therapy and Extirpate can both be very good, there are usually better options in your maindeck. If you do bring in Extirpate, aim for Togs with them. Sideboarding: +3 Plow Under, -2 Tarmogoyf, -1 Eternal Witness. The 2cc slot is crowded in the opposing deck and will get frequently hit by Counterbalance, ditto the 3cc slot, making those spaces less crowded in favor of less crowded slots is greatly to your advantage.
Red: Use Chant to force down Rifts and Slides, then go to town with cycled burn. Pull all four Goyfs and a wraith for the Grips and Hierarchs. Keep burning them, as they don't really have answers to Rift besides counters.
Ichorid: The deck still has Ichorids and Grave Trolls, but now it also adds Dread Return and Bridge from Below to the mix. Most Ichorid decks now try to dump the entire library into their yard at once now, using cards such as Breakthrough, Cephalid Sage, and Careful Study, then using multiple Dread Returns to power out a Flamekin/Zombie token kill. This happens as early as turn two with surprising frequency (roughly 25-30% of the time).
Black: You want to get down an Explosives set at zero ASAP. Deed is also golden here as both pretty much stop the "token game" and give you a chance to build up some defenses. Goyf is great here as he comes down as a 5/6 or 6/7. You can use Slide defensively to keep them at fewer than three creatures during their main phase. Expect to lose game one a lot, though. Games two and three you have Extirpate and Samurai. Samurai turns off Bridge and makes Ichorid a one-use critter. They won't attempt to go off until he's been bounced. Extirpates main target should be Narcomoeba. As soon as the trigger from one goes on the stack, get rid of all of them, this really slows the Ichorid player down, as some builds don't even run Ichorid anymore. Sideboarding: +4 Extirpate, +4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain, -2 Life from the Loam, -3 Astral Slide, -3 Eternal Witness.
Red: Use Rift and Slide to kill everything you see game one. Chant can also be devastating if timed correctly. Ichorid can do absolutely nothing about a Chant lock, so if you get it, you win. Post board, Crypts and Samurai FTW. Sideboarding: +4 Tormod's Crypt, +4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain. -3 Life from the Loam, -3 Astral Slide, -2 Eternal Witness. You want to do things quickly and make the game impossible for them to win, you don't want to spend lots of time messing around with recursion or setting up locks.
Boros: This deck doesn't really exist in any kind of recognizable form from last season. Pretty much, it’s either Rgw, with Goyf, Kird Ape, Isamaru/Lions, Helix and tons of burn, or its Rgb, with Confidant replacing the White spells, and the possibility of Leyline/Duress out of the board.
Black: Not really much to say about this matchup except be aware of the possibility of Blistering Firecat, and it’s usually better to hardcast Angels. Proactively cast Explosives for one if you're on the play. Don't frivolously cycle Wraiths, and don't be afraid to hardcast Renewed Faiths. No boarding necessary in this match.
Red: Um, its Rift vs. a weenie deck. After you win game one, replace two of your Wraiths with Hierarchs from the board. Enjoy the free win.
Matchups You Don't Know
Now I'm going to cover three new decks that you probably aren't familiar with from last season, largely because they didn't exist then. Namely, Chocolate Rain, Noobstax, and Ninja Blink.
Chocolate Rain: this is a mono Black deck that uses discard rats, ninja rats, Swarmyard, and The Rack to empty your hand while killing you quickly. Still a fairly new deck in the metagame, it’s nowhere near its optimal development yet. I expect the finalized versions will splash either Green for Tarmogoyf or White for Vindicate and Gerard's Verdict. Some LD elements in the form of Rain of Tears/Rancid Earth may also be included. Bob is inexplicably absent from many of the versions you see online. Skullsnatcher is one surprisingly good piece of tech that has been adopted into many builds however. It's also probably the only Ninja that's worth running.
Black: The majority of creatures you'll see in this deck are 2-cc, so you want to set Explosives at 2 for them, or at 1 for The Rack. Loam is pretty much devastating for them as it can keep your hand full easily. Slide isn't that great here as most of their creatures have comes-into-play effects, while Deed is absolutely devastating for them. You don't have anything that’s really useful to board in here aside from some Samurais for extra blocking. Sideboarding +4 Samurai of the Pale Curtain, -4 Street Wraith.
Red: Fry all of their creatures as soon as they hit the board. Rinse and repeat. Try to keep your hand full enough to avoid damage from The Rack and Nezumi Shortfang. Chant is absolutely devastating for them since virtually their entire deck operates at Sorcery speed. Sideboarding: +3 Krosan Grip, +2 Loxodon Hierarch, -4 Street Wraith, -1 Astral Slide.
I finally have a deck. Now you're all Noobstax: created by Foolycooly7777, this is the Suppression Field deck everyone has been waiting for in Extended. The deck uses Root Maze to devastate opposing fetch based manabases, while Suppression Field, Trinisphere, and Chalice of the Void add to the opponent’s misery. Birds and Elves combine with Ravnica bounce duals to provide the GW deck with plenty of mana and color fixing that's immune to its own disruption, while Exalted Angels and Loxodon Hierarchs beat for the win. Other pieces of annoyance include Glowriders and Aven Mindcensors.
going to die.
Black: Your guys are bigger or the same size, and while the Suppression Field on your cyclers is annoying, you've got a wide variety of ways to dispose of it. Just keep blowing up the prison pieces and recurring the removal. Sideboarding: +3 Plow Under, -3 Street Wraith. Bounce duals vs. Plow Under isn't funny. Well, not for them anyways.
Red: Get ready for a long day. Game one you can't remove any of the problem cards and your mana, draw, and damage engines all take a huge hit here. Sideboarding: +3 Krosan Grip, +2 Loxodon Hierarch. You can kill the lock pieces post board, but they'll have even more hate at that point. A very long day vs. this deck.
Ninja Blink: This is basically the Standard Blink deck translated to Extended and crossed with Crystal Witness. Useful additions include fetchlands, Trinket Mage + Toolbox, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Eternal Witness, and in some builds, Opposition or Counterbalance.
Black: Not the best of times here. If you can get a Slide to stick, you can start dominating the board with it, but things like Blink + Mystic Snake are still bad times. Sideboarding: +4 Cabal Therapy, -2 Tarmogoyf, -2 Renewed Faith. Goyf might seem like an odd choice to remove, but their graveyard stays relatively card free, and you'll often be blowing Deed for more than two.
Red: You have Rift. Pretty much all of their creatures have toughness 1 or 2. You figure it out.
Other Other Decks in Extended
Obviously, that doesn't cover anything like everything that's available in Extended, but it does give a rough overview of some of the more common archetypes you can expect. Here's a quick word on some others and what your prospects vs. them are.
Madness: It's been the missing deck for a while now, but with Affinity on the decline and the addition of Psionic Blast, Goyf, and Hurkyl's Recall, it's primed for a comeback. Slightly, but not heavily in your favor for both Black and Red versions. Expect Threads of Disloyalty on your Goyfs post board.
Tron Variations: They really don't have much game vs. things like Ichorid or the Red decks, so I'm not sure how common this will be this season. Black dominates them with LD; Red can have issues without some early Rift/Monastery action. This is another deck that will use Threads of Disloyalty on your Goyfs post board.
Enduring Ideal: The lock is Dovescape/Solitary Confinement/Form of the Dragon. It’s not the best combo deck by a long shot, but it can and does win games sometimes. Also, all pieces of the combo can be easily hardcast. Beat face as hard and fast as possible. Better matchup for Black than for Red.
TEPS: Still fast, still dies to Chant and skilled usage of Therapy. Not the best matchup, but not the worst, since Goyf and friends can now force them to combo earlier than they may have liked vs. earlier versions of Slide. Black has the easier time with more disruption and token removal ability. Samurai keeps them from drawing a card off of Chromatic Star.
Affinity: No longer the fastest aggro in the format, and facing massive hate from any color that wants to show it, still has the Canali formula available to it. (i.e., hope everyone leaves their hate at home and pack Meddling Mage just in case.) Good matchup for both Black and Red. Some versions packing Goyf and Root Maze have also reared their heads. Samurai devastates this deck post board if you somehow lose game one.
Flow Aggro: Both versions of Slide run plenty of basics and ways to find them, making this decks signature card an annoyance at best. After that, simply use Slide and/or Rift to dominate their creatures and beat face with Angel/Goyf.
Scepter Chant: Auto loses to half the format, auto wins vs. the other half. Very hot and cold deck. Beats Black hard, loses to Red just as badly. Most likely won't be nearly as popular as it was last year.
Aggro Loam: Can go either way, but slightly in your favor for both Black and Red, especially post board. Can randomly win at any time via Devastating Dreams. Extirpate on their cycling lands is beyond brutality. Red gets lots of free Rift activations from their draw engine.
I know that isn't everything in Extended, and if I left your pet deck off, I'm sorry, but that should give anyone thinking about playing this deck a very solid base to start off of. Good luck to all with the upcoming Extended season.
By Sean DeCoursey on September 14th, 2007 · Filed in Extended (Type 1.x) · Comments not available just now
About Sean DeCoursey
Sean Decoursey is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom where he served with the 2/124th Infantry from 12/02 through 03/04. He attended Truman State University where he was a member of the rugby team which ranked in the top ten nationally three times. Sean graduated with a degree in Justice Systems and now lives in Kansas City, where he works as a Financial Advisor.