In the Balance

Posted in Building on a Budget on August 19, 2009

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Building on a Budget. This week I have a new and exciting Extended deck to share with you. The initial idea was sent to me via email by a reader named Trevor. The deck uses one of the most powerful tools in Extended, cascade. People are a bit wary of the decks that cascade into one of the big suspend spells. I mentioned the use of Hypergenesis, the suspend Eureka, a few months ago. People have been struggling quite a bit to mold a deck list around that concept. All those lists seem very powerful, but most of them struggle to win through a single Counterspell.

Trevor decided that Restore Balance might be a better spell to cascade into than Hypergenesis. I tried out the deck, and while I can't quite say that it's more powerful than the Hygenesis deck, it certainly feels like you're playing a more interactive game. Here's the initial decklist that Trevor sent me:

Restore Balance

Trevor's Balancing Tings

Download Arena Decklist

The initial decklist looks pretty good. I took it for a test drive on Magic Online and won a pretty good portion of the games I played. There were a few things that didn't work out so well, though.

The mana wasn't very good. I lost a few games where I just watched in horror as my opponent had a quick start and I just couldn't find the right lands to play a cascade spell to inflict my one-sided Obliterate. I wanted to change the mana base before I went any further.

I did a quick search on Gatherer and looked up artifacts that costs three mana to cast and produce any color of mana. My initial instinct was to add some Prismatic Lens, but that would ruin my 100% chance of cascading into Restore Balance.

Darksteel Ingot

The card that ended up solving all my problems was Darksteel Ingot. It costs three mana and it produces any color of mana. I cut Null Profusion and Serum Powder, and the deck looked like this.

Balancing Tings

Download Arena Decklist

I played a few more matches with the deck and started seeing better results. Unfortunately, there were still a few things that weren't going very well for me.

I found myself losing games even after I destroyed four lands and two creatures with Restore Balance. I just couldn't find win conditions, or my win conditions would find their way into the exile zone via Path to Exile. I wanted to change the way the deck won games. As it stood, Phyrexian Totem and Salvage Titan were the only routes to victory. I didn't like the Salvage Titan because it weakened my Restore Balance and didn't put enough of a presence on the board. I looked over the some lists of legal Extended cards and found March of the Machines.

March of the Machines

There wasn't any reason to stick with Swamps as the basic land of choice now that I had cut the Null Profusion and Salvage Titan. I decided to cut some Swamps for other basics and smooth out the mana a bit more.

I really liked the Phyrexian Totems, and decided I wanted more cards that fell into that category. I decided to include a Foriysian Totem and see how it worked out in the main.

Demonic Dread

My last mission was finding room for a playset of Demonic Dread. I don't think I was ever upset to have a cascade spell in hand. Playing twelve of my best card as opposed to eight seemed like a huge boon.

My final build of the deck looks like this:

Balancing Tings (version 2)

Download Arena Decklist

The deck is pretty incredible in Game 1 against just about every other deck. In Games 2 and 3 I usually found myself struggling to deal with Ancient Grudge. Fortunately for this deck, the Onslaught fetchlands are rotating out of Extended soon, which should make it harder to splash cards like Ancient Grudge and Kataki, War's Wage.

The deck doesn't use any cards that are rotating out of Extended this season. My past few columns have been about Standard decks that include a good number of cards from Lorwyn block. I've received a lot of emails from people who ask if I can try to minimize the amount of cards I use that are rotating. This is most certainly in the spirit of Building on a Budget, and I decided that it's probably a good idea to focus on concepts that will still exist once autumn rolls around.

I didn't make a sideboard because there is virtually no data regarding the new Extended metagame. I could just make a list of generic sideboard cards, but that would be inaccurate and I probably wouldn't side any of them in.

Anyway, I took the deck to battle on Magic Online.

I win the die roll and mulligan into Island, Firewild Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, Darksteel Ingot, Demonic Dread, and March of the Machines. I cast my Firewild Borderpost and pass the turn. My opponent casts Thoughtseize and takes my March of the Machines. I draw Fieldmist Borderpost, cast Mistvein Borderpost, and pass the turn. My opponent casts a Tarmogoyf and passes. I draw another March of the Machines, cast my third Borderpost, and pass the turn. My opponent attacks, plays Overgrown Tomb tapped, and casts Putrid Leech. I draw a Plains, cast Demonic Dread, cascade into Restore Balance, and kill all my opponent's creatures and lands before playing my land and passing the turn. My opponent has no play the next turn and simply passes. I draw another Borderpost, play my land, cast a Borderpost, and tap out for March of the Machines before passing the turn. I attack for 15 the next turn, and my opponent dies (thanks to Thoughtseize and two shocklands).

I lose the roll and keep Swamp, Mountain, Phyrexian Totem, Darksteel Ingot, Mistvein Borderpost, Firewild Borderpost, and Ardent Plea. My opponent casts Lava Spike and puts me at 17. I draw another Borderpost, cast Mistvein Borderpost, and pass the turn. My opponent casts Hellspark Elemental and attacks for 3, putting me at 14. I draw a Restore Balance, cast another Borderpost, and pass the turn. My opponent unearths the Hellspark Elemental and attacks for another 3 before he casts a second Lava Spike, putting me at 8. I draw a Plains and cast my Darksteel Ingot. My opponent untaps and passes the turn. I draw March of the Machines, cast a Borderpost to pick up my only land, and cast Ardent Plea. I cascade into Restore Balance, and my opponent casts a Shrapnel Blast to put me at 3 before everything gets sacrificed. He draws for his turn and passes. I draw another Borderpost, cast the Borderpost and March of the Machines, and pass the turn. My opponent simply passes the turn again. I attack for 15. My opponent draws a Mountain, plays it, and casts Lightning Bolt for the final 3 points of damage.

I lose the roll again and keep Forest, Mountain, Swamp, Darksteel Ingot, Fieldmist Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, and Demonic Dread. My opponent plays a Stomping Ground and casts Wild Nacatl. I draw Veinfire Borderpost, cast a Borderpost, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Sacred Foundry and attacks for 3 before casting a Tarmogoyf. I draw Ardent Plea, cast another Borderpost, and pass the turn. My opponent casts a Rift Bolt and attacks me for 4. I draw Violent Outburst, play my land, and cast Demonic Dread. My opponent sacrifices both creatures and all his lands except one. My opponent suspends another Rift Bolt and passes. I play Darksteel Ingot and my third Borderpost and pass the turn. My opponent plays a land and casts another Tarmogoyf. I draw Phyrexian Totem, cast the totem, and cast Violent Outburst. My opponent sacrifices both his lands and Tarmogoyf. He draws and passes the turn. I draw another Phyrexian Totem, cast it, and attack with the first one. My opponent draws and passes the turn again. I activate both Totems and attack. My opponent draws for his next turn and concedes.

I win the roll and mulligan into Island, Fieldmist Borderpost, Wildfield Borderpost, Firewild Borderpost, Phyrexian Totem, and Violent Outburst. I cast a Borderpost and pass the turn. My opponent plays an Island and passes. I draw a Darksteel Ingot, cast another Borderpost and pass the turn. My opponent simply plays another Island and passes. I draw another Phyrexian Totem, cast Phyrexian Totem, which gets Rune Snagged, and pass. My opponent plays another land and passes. I draw March of the Machines and attempt another Phyrexian Totem, but it gets Mana Leaked. My opponent plays an untapped Breeding Pool and casts Tarmogoyf. I draw another Borderpost and cast it, then attempt to cast my Violent Outburst. It cascades into Restore Balance and, surprisingly, it resolves, wiping the board. My opponent plays a Hallowed Fountain tapped and passes. I draw a Darksteel Ingot and cast March of the Machines. Two attacks later and the game is over.

I understand that these results are skewed, and in full three-game matches the deck probably would not have performed as well. The deck has a huge weakness to Ancient Grudge, but hopefully that won't be as large a factor once Onslaught block rotates out. I probably stole the game from the blue deck because he didn't expect something like Restore Balance.

I really like this as a casual deck for the new Extended. It does something incredibly powerful with brutal consistency. Its major weakness is that it can't really do anything impressive until turn three or four. Usually, you just want to wait until turn four so you can full-on Armageddon your opponent along with the Wrath of God. Perhaps there is another deck list lying underneath all this; I feel like this is a powerful enough concept that there should almost certainly be a better way of fitting the puzzle pieces together.

After playing some games with the new list I was exceptionally impressed with the power level of March of the Machines. If I played enough matches with the deck I'm sure there would be a good number of games that I won by simply casting the March and attacking. It seems like the perfect finisher for our deck and should probably push out the Foriysian Totem that took the 60th slot.

If I were to sleeve up the deck tonight and play some games with my friends the list would probably look like this:

Balancing Tings (version 3)

Download Arena Decklist

One of the coolest parts about this deck is that if I were to make a non-budget version it would look virtually identical to the list you see here.

I hope everyone enjoyed our first steps out into the unknown wilderness of the new Extended. There are tons of deck ideas that need to be explored. I expect a lot of new technology to come out with Mind's Desire, Wirewood Symbiote, cycling lands, Riptide Laboratory, and Chain of Vapor all on the chopping block come September.

Thanks to everyone who sends me emails and writes in the forums. I'd like to hear from you this week. (The Wizards forums are in the shop right now, but you can still email me, below.) If there's a big enough response to this archetype I may work on this deck some more next week.

Happy brewing!

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