Fires - Rising from its Ashes
Let me start off with a brief introduction to Extended. Extended is a broader format than Standard, but its card pool is still limited. Currently, we have one of the largest extended card pools ever. It includes every block from Invasion through Lorwyn, 7th edition through 10th edition, and Coldsnap. It’s a great place to play your old and rotated Standard decks. Archetypes that have been in Extended seasons past include old Standard staples U/G Madness, Ravager Affinity, Wake, Astral Slide, and Tog. It’s also a place for new decks to be designed, and this list has included such former greats as Ichorid, Aggro Loam, CAL and Draco Explosions. Now on to the current Extended Format.
The Extended metagame is so wide open right now post PT Valencia that it is probably pretty hard to choose a deck. You’ve got so many options just in the Top 8, ranging from aggro to control to combo. For reference, the T8 breaks down as follows:
First Place – Counter Top Goyf
Second Place – Enduring Ideal Combo
Third Place – White Rock
Fourth Place – U/W Tron
Fifth Place – Dark Zoo
Sixth Place – Gifts Rock
Seventh Place - Affinity
Eighth Place – U/W Tron
Seven different Archetypes, and 8 VERY different decks. This is a good place to start your testing, as these are the decks you are going to see the most of in the upcoming season. You should also test against perennial powerhouses Goblins, the ever dangerous Dredge deck, and last year’s powerhouse, Aggro Loam.
Going into the PTQ season, it may seem like you have many options, and so picking the correct deck is going to be a challenge. In such a diverse format, you have an abundance of options, some of which you may have not explored. Let’s take a look at an old personal favorite of mine, which I have been vigorously testing for the last year:
The Namesake of a Forgotten Archetype
|Fires – Eugene Harvey U.S Nationals T8 2001Magic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
2 Dust Bowl
4 Karplusan Forest
4 Rishadan Port
|4 Llanowar Elves|
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Flametongue Kavu
2 Shivan Wurm
|4 Firest of Yavimaya|
4 Saproling Burst
4 Chimeric Idol
3 Ghitu Fire
Dust Bowl – Dust Bowl allowed for you to shut off the non-basic lands that were seeing play at the time, such as:
Rishadan Port – This card allowed the deck to lock down control decks while dropping threats. Very vital, and most decks at the time were running a full set of four.
Karplusan Forest – We may be in the era of mana fixing, but 7th edition had its fair share as well. Perfect for any Red/Green deck.
Blastoderm – The ‘derm had a lot going for it. Shroud, higher Power/Toughness to cost ratio, being green. Nowadays, we don’t have anything nearly as good, except in white.
Flametongue Kavu – Probably the second best creature card to come out of Planeshift, only behind Meddling Mage. It handled almost every relevant creature in the format, except in the mirror match. Even then, when teamed with burn, it was able to take down even the mighty Shivan Wurms. Can take out plenty of pesky creatures nowadays, including early Tarmogoyfs
Shivan Wurm – The ability to bounce Flametongue Kavus, or almost faded Blastoderms, allowed this “drawback” to be more of a blessing. Its insanely cheap cost, and Trample, made this turn “4” play seem ridiculous with a Fires out. That’s a good 5 damage almost every time, especially the turn after a FTK taking out a key blocker. It also provides a 3 turn clock if not dealt with.
Assault/Battery – Can provide the last few points of damage, or make another attacker. It’s very versatile, although better options might be present in the current format.
Chimeric Idol – Allowed you to avoid Wraths. You could still play some smaller dudes when teamed with Llanowar Elves and Birds, and it was a 3/3 for 3 mana. It’s a shame it isn’t legal anymore.
Fires of Yavimaya – The decks namesake, allowing you to get the maximum usage out of your dudes.
Ghitu Fire – An instant speed X spell? End of turn kill your guys? Not to mention it was a finisher in the late game. A very powerful spell, but not necessarily the best option in today’s metagame.
Saproling Burst – It’s a shame that this isn’t legal anymore, as it was the backbreaker of the deck. It was insane with Fires out, and usually made games end pretty quickly.
The deck was the best deck during its era, and we still have a lot of the tools legal in extended. However, we get the addition of a few VERY key new spells. I took the old Harvey list and updated it for today’s Metagame and format, and came up with the following initial list:
Mogg Fanatics weren't all that useful outside of the dredge match-up, and I found myself running out of steam. Troll Ascetic also failed to live up to expectations, it isn't, after all, Blastoderm. I kept tweaking the numbers and I ended up with the following list, and haven’t looked back since:
The Best Creature Ever Printed?
In game one, you’ve got Goyfs and FTK’s to take care of their guys. Shivan Wurm can be used to bounce FTK when needed. Burning-Tree Shaman early enough can just single handedly win you this game. Although it’s slightly counter productive with Garruk and Jitte, it’s still powerful enough to be worth it. Game two and three you side in Ancient Grudges, and teamed with Eternal Witness, you can just keep them off all their lands and any problematic creatures or spells.
Gifts Rock 45-55
This game is really dependant on your opponent’s play skill, and it can go up 10 to 15 points in your favor. Game 1 is really hard, Collective Restraints can cause a huge damper in your plan, so you have to be able to put enough pressure early that only swinging with one guy a turn is going to be enough to get the job done. Game two and three you have Gaddock Teeg and Ronom Unicorn, which get the job done, Teeg shutting down half their deck, and Ronom Unicorn’s taking care of the most problematic card in their deck.
Zoo and Variants 65-35
In game one, you have access to bigger, faster guys, and your Flame Tongue Kavu’s are easily two for ones. Jitte will also help you pull away in this game if you get it online. Game 2 you have access to Ancient Grudge if you think that they’ll be packing Jittes. You should be able to continue winning this match-up, and Garruk can be a very powerful trump card in this match.
U/W Tron 55-45
Game one is a tough game, but it’s still in your favor. They've only really got Wrath, and you're fast enough, with Fires, so their Wraths are a little less powerful. Game two and three (if it goes that far), you have Gaddock Teeg and Ancient Grudge handle their problematic cards (Wraths, Engineered Explosives, Gifts Ungiven). The match is really easy, and a lot of players will lose games on play skill alone. Ghost Quarter is also very powerful in this match-up.
Counter Top Goyf 55-45
Game one comes down to you getting out a BTS as fast as possible. With it in play, they have to find one of their answers without Top, or else they'll take too much damage. You have some answers to their Goyfs, in the form of FTK. Game two you get Ronom Unicorn, and that shuts off their Counterbalances. Pushing damage through is vital in this match-up, and you have the resources to take care of business.
Game one is a very tough match. You have to hope you can get something on the field fast enough, and your only real hope is a slow start from them, and a fast start from yourself. Game two and three you have Gaddock Teeg to shut down Breakthrough, which can severely slow them down, and you have Tormod’s Crypt. If you know they are siding in Pithing Needle, it might be smart to side in your Ancient Grudges as well.
White Rock 60-40
Game one is a little rough, but you have enough speed to fight through their removal. Your Goyfs are going to get huge quickly, and your Shivan Wurms and Flame Tongue Kavu’s are going to be trump here. Garruk also adds to their problems, as you can usually pump out enough dudes to overrun them, or you’ll be able to get to four counters and super overrun them. Game two, depending on the build you can side in a few different spells, including Gaddock Teegs. You have enough dudes to fight through their removal, and your removal comes in the package of dudes. Your Shivan Wurms are really strong here, as are your Eternal Witnesses.
Game one is a tough win. You can race them, but itas hard. Game two and three however, you have access to Gaddock Teeg and Ancient Grudges. They actually have a lot of problems fighting through Gaddock Teeg, as they can't cast half their spells. Ancient Grudge is really strong against their Lotus Blooms during upkeep. If you play it correctly, you should be able to win. Punting game one is tough to come back from, and it makes it hard to win the match, but it’s very favorable post board.
Enduring Ideal 65-35
Game one is almost unwinnable. You have to push damage through ASAP, and hope they fail to combo off fast enough to stop you. You can get through with Birds and Jitte+Garruk, but it’s incredibly hard to pull off. Game 2 you get Gaddock Teeg and Ronom Unicorn and you have a lot of opportunities to win. They have to wish for Pyroclasm, otherwise they won’t be able to fight past your Teegs. Game two and three are the only reason your match-up is so high in your favor.
Aggro Loam 55-45
This match-up is a little rough if you don't know how to play it, but you've got some pretty tough drops. Game one, if you can land a Tarmogoyf on turn 2, or a Fires turn 2, followed up by a Garruk and then a Goyf off the untap ability, you probably won’t lose. Make sure you don't overextend on mana, or else you will get burned by Devastating Dreams. Game two doesn't get any better for you, but it doesn't really get better for them. You can change up your Sideboard if you think that Aggro Loam is going to be hyper abundant, adding in something with five toughness or more. Another highlight is that early enough in the game, you can FTK their Goyfs, and then bounce your smaller dudes with your Shivan Wurms to stay out of Dreams range.
The deck has some poor match-ups, and there are ways to fix those match-ups. You will, however, sacrifice consistency in your mana base for more raw power. If you switch to Dark Fires, you will also give up your Enduring Ideal match-up, as you have to get rid of the White on the board.
Undercosted Fatty without a Drawback
I wish all of you the best of luck during the Extended Season, and you can bet that I'll be piloting this old favorite during at least one PTQ this season, and you can look for me at GP Philly as well. I encourage all of you to test out this deck, and the variant, and provide feedback. If you have any questions, about play style, more detailed match-up reports, or anything of the sorts, feel free to ask.