Brave New Extended

Originally, this article was going to be this linear storytelling experience leading into an in-depth look at the decks that don't change all that much this coming Extended season that, length aside, the editors on MTGS seemed to approve of. Then Sensei's Divining Top got banned and I had to rethink pretty much my entire assessment of the Extended format. There's much to be said when a bunch of decks have to go back to the drawing board before we can even attempt to get a grasp at what's to come in Extended.

So here I am, one paragraph in, already explaining that most of the article I was going to give you is pretty much Dead//Gone and that I would have to be a jibbering half-wit if I didn't mention the banning of Sensei's Divining top. So in case you didn't read the previous paragraph or the sentence prior to this, it's banned. There's no reason for me to expand upon that because even if I dedicated an article to why a card/s should or shouldn't be banned it would essentially be a huge time sink on the reader's and my part. Also, don't expect me to mention Shards of Alara. At the time of my writing this, there are 42 cards spoiled and I could care less because the entire premise of the article is working with what you already have. So, here goes, a greatly slimmed copy of the article I was originally going to write but had to trim down and rewrite because of the DCI. Lol.

Brief Overview of the Extended that Was

The initial boundary between me and
Extended.
I started getting into Extended right around the time when Dual Lands and Ice Age block rotated out, a serious period of tumult for the now-affordable-by-way-of-cards-in-Standard-at-the-time format. Decks used to rely on cards like Land Grant, the utility of Dual Lands and the always looming Force of Will. The format changed. The Psychatog deck from Standard how had you facing down the same Upheavals and Nightscape Familiars coupled with Accumulated Knowledge. Red Deck Wins had Wastelands, Rishadan Ports and Tangle Wire.
At the tail end of 2005, just short of MTGSalvation's one year anniversary, something pretty zany happened. Extended had a rotation and all of the cards printed before I started playing (except for Avatar of Woe and the rest of the Prophecy gang) were gone. The format got shook up. A lot of the same decks hung around, for sure. A lot of the decks changed; Psychatog started playing all sorts of colors to keep its control up to speed with the increasingly-aggressive aggro decks, Red Deck Wins started mixing in white so it could play Lightning Helix. Scepter/Chant went wild with Lightning Helx and Shocklands at its disposal.
As the Shocklands hung around, 9th Edition reared its head and Time Spiral came home drunk, what started out as the support for easier splashes in some decks by way of Shockland soon created monstrous new archetypes. Rock started playing Loxodon Hierarch and Gifts Ungiven. The impossible-to-play-and-win-with CAL gave way to Iori/Aggro-Loam. Tooth and Nail shed its combo heritage to become and two-color control deck. The once proud Boros line started letting mana of ALL COLORS in to the family, heralding Gaea's Might Get There (the main Red Deck Wins family has since broken off from the impure bloodline and remains only lightly tainted by its Green cousins). Rock later concentrated down a maddening 4-color base into a much more stable (and aggressive) three color one that varied between Red and White splashes for Destructive Flow and Vindicate respectively. Tarmogoyf showed up to the format and started getting played in everything. Creatures like Meloku just weren't good enough anymore.

To paraphrase a certain old-legless-reptile:
"Extended has changed. It's no longer about Psychatogs, Orim's Chants, or Wild Mongrels. It's an endless series of rainbow decks piloted at PTQs and 8-mans. Extended - and its consumption of the color pie - has become a sprawling myriad of deck ideas."

Ok, so that doesn't sound very bleak or foreboding.

Twin Extendeds

It was probably a lousy spell in the
Extended format.
So, the Extended rotation. That's what I'm writing about.

Extended's rotation takes a lot of cards and associated strategies and throws them out the window. Still think Psychatog is good and want to play it? Too bad. Rather than harp on hypothetical questions, these are the cards Extended loses this September:
...and so much more!


Some decks, like Goblins, suffer
seemingly irrecoverable losses.
A number of these cards are the very foundation of some decks: Solitary Confinement provides a protective lock, barring removal, in Enduring Ideal. Balancing Act and Devastating Dreams combo with Terravore to set up a huge green beater, but also operates beside the Insidious Dreams/Erratic Explosion/Draco combo. Putrid Imp and Breakthrough no longer power out turn 2 Ichorids. TEPS and Iori/Aggro-Loam lose the Burning Wish (along with a fist full of other cards) that makes what they do such a force in Extended. While Goblins still retain the bulk of its arsenal, it loses its two card advantage generators- without Goblin Matron and Ringleader, Goblins is forced to rely on topdecks or "Mirage Tutored" draws (courtesy of the vastly inferior Boggart Harbinger). Also, sorry, you're not putting Orim's Chant on a Stick anytime soon.

In the absence of these cards, a number of decks in the field get cleared up. Arguably, some of the listed cards can be easily replaced. I mean, why can't Restore Balance replace Balancing Act? Why not just let Boggart Harbinger take over for Goblin Matron?
The fact of the matter is that a number of decks rely or even hinge on certain card effects being made available. BTings is done; its entire manabase rotates, the win condition of choice is gone and the deck's namesake is no longer legal, relying instead on a ticking, but predictable (and, therefore, more easily countered) clock.
Will Goblins fare the same? It is certainly possible Goblins will stay alive in Extended. The core of the deck's aggression is still in place with Onslaught in Extended an extra year. The problem lies in the deck's resistance to hate. Where before a Deed could sweep the board only to be followed up by Matron into Ringleader into a restocked Goblin field, Wrath now forces the Goblin player to play fair (as "fair" as any deck that still gets to cheat mana, ignore summoning sickness and power out 1-mana gigantic pro-blue attackers can be, anyway).
But really, you can make your own choices on a number of decks of "old" that take substantial hits post-rotation. Couldn't afford the Chants anyway and want to stick to Counter/Card Draw/Burn only in your No-Stick build? Gunning Astral Slide against the wave of Aggro decks soon to populate your local PTQs? In the confusion of the rotation, you may just find a niche in keeping old tech in the new environment.

And more of the same
With so many cards and a "hey try whatever you think works approach" attitude, you would think the article ends here, but it's really just beginning. For most people, an even playing field without any sort of status quo (read Johnnies and Timmies) is ideal. Despite the massive sink in some decks from the change in card pool, there are just some things you can see coming as plain as death and taxes. This final section is a concluding briefing on what decks survive the rotation, expected builds of these decks and possibly a glimpse at the future of Extended.
Keep in mind this is mostly all conjecture. I have no looking glass and I'm not from Japan, Land of the Rising Tech. I put my pants on one leg at a time and stare into Magic 8-balls to the same "Ask Again Later" messages, just like you do.

The 800-lb Gorilla, Affinity
Affinity is a deck that loses nothing. Not a single card. Nada. Most builds even opt out of Black, so there goes your Cabal Therapies and Duress. The best question to ask, then, is, "Will Affinity be subject to bans post-Alara?" The best "counter" to Affinity's onslaught was the stacked-cost destruction provided by Pernicious Deed. A Deed for 0 clears almost the entirety of Affinity's land base and any stray Ornithopters. A Deed for 7 wipes out all but Darksteel Citadel and any non-Artifact lands in the deck. Barring acceleration into a Wrath or Shatterstorm effect, there is little to stop or slow turn 4 4/4s sidearmed with a Ravager, 2 Frogmites and a 1/1 Blinkmoth or two from running wild on you. Affinity's continued presence in formats filled with methods of hating it out has always been the ace up the Mirrodin deck's sleeve. I would keep a cautious eye on Affinity come September and prepare your sideboard with whatever hate the color/s you're playing provides if you're not running it. That said, here's a copy-pasted list from this past Extended season just to give you an idea how straightforward Affinity still is:

"Surprise, I'm still ridiculous!"
Affinity by Allen Doong 1st PTQ Salt Lake City on 2008-02-17Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Creatures
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Frogmite
3 Myr Enforcer
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Somber Hoverguard
4 Tarmogoyf

Spells
4 Thoughtcast
4 Shrapnel Blast
4 Cranial Plating
4 Springleaf Drum

Lands
3 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Great Furnace
4 Seat Of The Synod
4 Tree Of Tales
3 Darksteel Citadel

Some non-Artifacts in the mix, but nothing profound or shocking. It's the same degenerate Affinity it's always been and not a single card, main or sideboard, leaves the format.

My First Time, Red Deck Wins
Those on the up-and-up know about my passion for those fiery Extended brews. RDW was the first deck I piloted at an Extended PTQ, back in the days of Wastelands and Cursed Scrolls (did I tell this story already? I'm getting old). There's nothing tired or lapsed about burning things and swinging with dorks; it's not something that ages so much as it's a part of every age, something deep within the bits and pieces that make this game up. That said, you lose some burn spells and trade them for others. Also, you don't have my favorite red man, Grim Lavamancer, anymore. In theory, you could just throw out Blistering Firecat or Slow Way Down to Magus of the Scroll. The burn spell rotation is virtually meaningless, as one of this past season's first place RDW builds only played burn that would still be legal post rotation. In the worst case scenario, you can retrofit Flame Jab in place of Lava Dart.
A build:

RIP Matoc, 2002-2008
Red Deck Wins as Suggested by Kijin on 2008 - 08Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Creatures
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Magus of the Scroll
4 Kird Ape
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Tin Street Hooligan
4 Blistering Firecat

Spells
4 Incinerate
4 Seal of Fire
4 Rift Bolt
4 Molten Rain

Lands
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Stomping Grounds
2 Keldon Megaliths
6 Mountain
1 Forest

The build I based this one off of had some black spells sideboard for more targeted removal and you could even opt into some discard. You lose Flametongue Kavu and Terminate as sideboard options.

Always the Bridesmaid..., Rock and Variants
Rock has always been the "safe" deck in the format, the kind of deck that you don't see come in first place all the time but you always saw doing consistently well. The kind of "jack of all trades" deck that could run into a metagame naked and probably come through better for the wear. Or, alternatively, come in too specified and not stand a chance against the room of Glimpse the Unthinkable control-mill decks. Last season saw the introduction of Doran, the Siege Tower and the resurgence of Death Cloud in a format not broken into decks with and without a 95% Artifact content. Since the loss of Deed puts every wake of Rock in a precarious position, my suggestion is a totally untested and likely horrible play on words build that will likely cause you to walk home 0-3, drop on the first day of the new Extended:

It does not sweep the board,
but it will be your new staple.
ExploraDora'n as Suggested by Kijin on 2008 - 08Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Creatures
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Dark Confidant
3 Doran, the Siege Tower

Spells
4 Thoughtseize
3 Raven's Crime
3 Life from the Loam
3 Putrefy
2 Nameless Inversion
3 Umezawa's Jitte

Land
1 Wooded Foothills
4 Windswept Heath
2 Murmuring Bosk
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Treetop Village
1 Plains
3 Forest
2 Swamp

This deck is bad and I should feel bad.

The Steel Python, Next and Previous Level Blue
TrinketMage doesn't get worse in the absence of Pernicious Deed. It also tutors up the only game in town when it comes to pay-as-you-go type mass removal- Engineered Explosives. Your Artifact toolbox remains ever present, as does the exceptional Veldalkan Shackles. Previous Level Blue may even surpass Next Level Blue in top 8s, as the rotation of Counterspell and Force Spike as well as the absent Counterbalance/Top lock opens up a gaping hole in what was the Extended champ's signature. That said, Counterspell is outright replaced by Remand in both builds, while Spell Snare and Cryptic Command remain constants. An example of this would be:

B&. ROTF, LOL.
Previous Level Blue suggested by Kijin on 2008 - 08Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Creatures
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Trinket Mage

Spells
2 Repeal
3 Threads Of Disloyalty
4 Remand
3 Cryptic Command
4 Spell Snare
3 Thirst For Knowledge
4 Chrome Mox
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Pithing Needle
2 Chalice of the Void
1 Tormod's Crypt
3 Vedalken Shackles

Land
1 Tree Of Tales
6 Island
1 Breeding Pool
4 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Polluted Delta
1 Steam Vents
1 Watery Grave
1 Academy Ruins
1 Miren, The Moaning Well


The Shot Heard Across Formats, Faeries

Although Faeries is the bane of Block and a sizable nuisance in Standard, the fae managed to sneak in at the tail end of last Extended season and made a few top 8s. The irksome element of Extended Faeries is that it looked nearly identical to its Standard counterpart. All creatures, Cryptic Commands and even some of the lands stopped into the old folks home to kick around Grandpa Aggro-Loam and cut in line at meal time. With the rotation, the Extended build loses an almost insurmountable 2 cards (sarcasm tags are invisible after implementation): Counterspell and Force Spike. Of these two, Force Spike is the only card that should be of concern, as its absence leaves the deck vulnerable to the Mogg Fanatics, Thoughtseizes and first turn Frogmites the seemingly innocuous counter manages. In its wake, Spell Snare will likely fill the gap of "On the Draw" syndrome the flitters suffer from, carving up aggressively cast Goyfs, Confidants and Engineered Explosivess for 2 meant to tip the tides away from the winged weenies.

4/4 Time Walks tend to translate between
formats.
Faeries as Suggested by Kijin on 2008 - 08Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
Creatures
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Scion of Oona
4 Mistbind Clique
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Pestermite

Spells
3 Chrome Mox
3 Cryptic Command
4 Remand
4 Spell Snare
3 Smother
4 Bitterblossom

Lands
4 Mutavault
4 Polluted Delta
2 Riptide Laboratory
4 Secluded Glen
1 Watery Grave
6 Island


Additionally, there are three decks that deserve a second look before they're discounted from your metagame testing:

BRUTE FORCE GO GET 'IM
Gaea's Might rotates out, leaving "Gaea's Might Get There" without its namesake card. The card, usually only a 3-of in most builds, needs some replacement in order to maintain the deck's token aggression. One possibility, Might of Old Krosa, gives you a huge 1-mana buff. The problem is its mandatory Sorcery-speed to get said buff, meaning you can't play the Might effectively as a combat-based removal spell. It also puts a huge target on the creature you cast it on. Alternatively, Giant Growth and its timeshifted counterpart Brute Force give you the same "burn speed." However, you drop your potential damage by 2. 2 damage for the 1 mana separates Death Spark from Lightning Bolt. The up side to either 3-point-pump is that you don't require every land type, regardless of ease of acquisition, for them to be effective. Ideally, I'd rather cast a 1-mana Lava Axe over Lava Spike, but such is the nature of a set rotation.
You also lose Grim Lavamancer in your one-slot, a potent loss to be sure. My expected change would be a maximum number of Mogg Fanatics peppered in with Watchwolf to replace the occasional Wild Mongrel in the two-slot. While Magus of the Scroll is nice, it doesn't have the same speed or functionality of the other Red Wizard in such a tempo-minded deck as this.
Your final loss is the format-wide hole created by Vindicate's rotation as well as one or two burn spells. As GMGT was never my kind of deck, it is entirely possible the hole can be patched by Putrefy or the addition of more burn/cheap creature removal. What fills the gap is entirely dependent on what functionality Vindicate serves in your build. The burn spells should not be missed, as the sheer volume and flavors of burn available to the discriminating consumer is belligerent and numerous.

Aggro-Loam
Ok, so you have no game-locking board clearer for RR, you can't reuse Wall of Roots as a discard spell and your finisher isn't a massive Trampler. And just for kicks, the primary trigger for your toolbox is dust in the wind. What's a deck to do? Iori looks to be a same-but-different kind of machine, if it decides to stick around at all. You still have the previous iteration of Thoughts of Ruin, your creature base is still stable, if only less impressive without Terravore, and your discard suite is still available, possibly optimal between Raven's Crime and Life from the Loam, just with a little more commitment involved to be as ridiculous as the stunts possible with older builds. In short, the deck suffers the same overall downgrade the entire format (minus Affinity, which is the same card-for-card) has.
The only issue in Iori is the lack of consistent sweep generated through Devastating Dreams, which, resolved before (or after) a Terravore, pretty much wrote the tick mark for you in the "Win" column of your scorecard. The deck also maintains a toolbox through Glittering Wish, which gives you access to such hits as Firespout, Mortify, Gaddock Teeg, Loxodon Hierarch, etc. The lack of sweep also opens up possible returns to Eternal Witness and Birds of Paradise interaction. If Aggro-Loam returns to Extended after the rotation, it will most likely be in a totally new or very classic form. That said, it isn't something that borders on the impossible in September.

Simic-Tron
UG-Tron loses one card. One. Single. Card. So why is it potentially "out of the running" over one card? Because the card is a double-use "timewalk," Moment's Peace, and it's pretty important. While most other control/aggro-control decks have an early game strategy, UG gets off on initiating a stall. Live long enough to cast Gifts Ungiven, generate whocares mana and cast your huge, Tim-tastic spells that your opponent has no way of dealing with. A major player in this tactic is your two-turn "Get out of the Losers Bracket Free" card. The only dilemma with the singular-loss rotation is that there is no replacement for Moment's Peace.
You can try jank like Pollen Lullaby, but then you're dice rolling survival AND clusterbombing your already tight manabase. You could opt into Wall of Roots, both as a mana battery and ticking speed bump, but then run the risk of it being burned or slaughtered. You also don't get the mass prevention provided by Moment's Peace with Wall of Roots. There is also the possibility of taking the deck back to when it was in Standard, with obtuse multi-color mana monstrosities afoot and less streamline pushing the gears around. Previous iterations of the deck were similar in construction, but ultimately better off as a stall-until-win type deck.

Dredge
It's unfair to label a deck that is absent its namesake, as established prior, by its same name. Friggorid, the balls-to-the-wall-turbo "combo" deck that's torn up Extended and older formats alike, is minus the "Friggorid" and gas that powers the deck (it also loses Cabal Therapy, no small effect in a deck with few alternative methods of disrupting hate for it). So why bother listing it? Dead is dead, right?
Well, anyone who knows Friggorid and Dredge archetypes also knows that death is only the beginning. Before Extended and Vintage embraced Bridge From Below (this is probably an exaggeration), Standard built quite an empire off of Merfolk Looter effects, Dredge and Dread Return/Bridge from Below. The combo doesn't have the same ridiculous synergy the free flashback cards, 1cc discard-for-effect creatures and inexpensive Blue draw-and-discard spells that open up consistent turn 3 victories, but the higher-risk Standard constructions do have a very early victory threshold. If the Dredge archetype rears its head in the future of Extended, it'll likely come bearing Magus of the Bazaar.

TEPS
Similar to BTings, The Extended Perfect Storm loses its entire manabase and Wish-board. In addition, it still has a weakness to a resolved Gaddock Teeg, loses the critical Cabal Ritual and has no Darkwater Egg to filter mana through. Originally, I wasn't even going to talk about TEPS since the deck looks almost nothing like it originally did, Mind's Desire and Mana Accelerators into a leathal Tendrils of Despair aside. So how in holy hell does a deck like this stay current? Card draw. Suffle effects. Low number Land-base. Making Peer Through Depths playable. The banning of Top. What's that? I wasn't going to talk about Top? Well, here's the exception. A successful turn of Top-Counterbalance effectively shuts off the mana ramp required to get off your Storm combo. Sure, your Storm count may be through the roof as you try wholeheartedly to play your Rituals and Channels, but one well-placed Counterspell can kill your mana development and leave you just short of your 4-6 mana for Tendrils or Desire. Without a 1-mana (or a die roll if you're unable to get both halves of the lock in play) way to Counter Every Spell, TEPS gains much needed breathing room from being completely shut down by the format's former favorite "Force Spike" fallback.

The Bare Bones
The problem with predicting metagames in a shaken-up, post rotation and banning format is that you have very little data to go on. Usually, a new set ripe with new cards will rotate in, causing the very rotation at the heart of the matter. On top of this, you have hundreds of cards at a time (in both Standard and Extended alike) leaving the format. Though the above estimates are, well, estimates, they're also somewhat educated ones. The format's most powerful decks are saturated with cards that remain legal even after Shards of Alara enters the fray. Additionally, a number of these decks have remained consistently in the core of competitive Extended deckbuilding for as long as I've been playing, at the very least. Still others, not tier one prior to the rotation, only seek to make gains with the loss of cards that hose or otherwise dampen the strategies that make them, for the moment, effective rogue strategies.

I hope this has been an informative, if not entertaining, read for you and that you can take this information to any playtesting you hope to do for the brave new Extended to come.

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