A Bit of a Stretch

Posted in Building on a Budget on April 2, 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

Ready to take infinite turns?

Hello, again, and welcome to another edition of Building on a Budget. I spent a good portion of this week trying to decide what I was going to write about. I tried to think of a Standard deck that was offbeat, inexpensive, and had some game, but I just could not think of anything new. I had some friends over this weekend to test Extended, and I decided to throw together a homebrew.

The deck is, at its core, a blue-black control deck. It plays removal spells, various ways to control the board, and a healthy dose of card draw. What makes this deck very different is its late game plan. Once you draw a second Raven's Crime, you play a Spellweaver Helix, imprinting Raven's Crime and Time Stretch. You can then play the second Raven's Crime and take an additional two turns. Every land you draw or have in hand becomes a Time Stretch. Eventually you draw an Academy Ruins and use it to put artifact lands on the top of your library. Hence, you have an unlimited number of turns to find a way to win.

The combo here is Time Stretch, Spellweaver Helix, and Raven's Crime.

The Support Cards

Wretched Banquet: This card is very powerful. I'm quite surprised it has not received much play in the first few months of Constructed with Conflux. I feel this card has applications from Legacy to Block Constructed. This is a very efficient removal spell and should see more play than it does.

Darkblast: A very nice removal spell. Darkblast is very strong against the Elf and Faerie decks.

Trinket Mage: One of the best cards in Extended. This is a very good card and it's a common, so you won't have to break the bank.

Thirst for Knowledge and Compulsive Research: Drawing cards is important. It's also very important that you have a way to discard your Time Stretch. You don't need to draw one of these to pitch it, though—you can simply cast Raven's Crime targeting yourself and pitch the big spell.

The Trinket Mage Toolbox

Executioner's Capsule: A good removal spell that can be tutored for with your Trinket Mage. Once you have Academy Ruins online you can destroy creatures at your leisure.

Chalice of the Void: This card is a bit expensive, but it seems like a very nice fit in this deck. I'm only playing one because of the monetary value of the card, but the single copy feels very strong.

Engineered Explosives: Again, I'm only playing one Explosives, I can Trinket Mage for the single copy when it is absolutely necessary and I can use my Academy Ruins to reuse it.

Sigil of Distinction: Fetching the Shards of Alara Equipment with Trinket Mage is a very strong play. My friend Gerard Fabiano recently added a single copy of Sigil to his Extended Faerie deck that plays Trinket Mage. From the games I've seen it seems very powerful. This deck needs a way to win the game and this seems like a fine candidate.

Once I mash all these cards together, the deck looks like this:

Stretch Armstrong

Download Arena Decklist

I decided that the deck should play a full playset of each of the on-color artifact lands. They make our Thirst for Knowledge much better, and they maximize our chances of having one to use with Raven's Crime and Academy Ruins once we combo.


Seat of the Synod
Arcane Sanctum

The deck plays Arcane Sanctum because it fixes our mana and allows us to set an Explosives off for 3, this is surprisingly important. The white mana also gives us more sideboard options.

Academy Ruins is working extra hard here. I wanted to play enough copies of Academy Ruins to fight through other blue decks copies. Drawing a second copy isn't the end of the world because it can be easily discarded to your Compulsive Research.


Vault of Whispers
Seat of the Synod

The deck is surprisingly elegant. It doesn't play a single two-drop, so in most matches you want to be setting your Chalice of the Void at two counters. This isn't new tech; Kenny Öberg played a Chalice of the Void deck that lacked two-drops and Top 8ed a Pro Tour and a Grand Prix with it. It won't come as a surprise to most people that Chalice for 2 is very powerful against most decks in Extended.

The Sideboard

1 Darkblast
3 Sunbeam Spellbomb
4 Trickbind
1 Night of Souls' Betrayal
3 Cruel Ultimatum
1 Spellweaver Helix
2 Cruel Edict

The fourth Darkblast is there for our Elf and Faerie matchups. The Sunbeam Spellbomb is a silver bullet that can be used to gain some much-needed life when racing a Zoo or Burn deck. The Trickbinds are used for fighting the Storm decks. The Night of Soul's Betrayal is, like Darkblast, used against Faeries and Elves. The Cruel Ultimatum and extra Spellweaver Helix give us the option of going all in on our combo. Cruel Ultimatum is much better than Time Stretch against Zoo and Burn decks. The Ultimatum also provides us with a very strong win condition.

I played some games with the deck against my friends.

Round 1 vs. Zoo

Game 1

I keep Wretched Banquet, Trinket Mage, Darkblast, Swamp, Seat of the Synod, Academy Ruins, and Arcane Sanctum. My opponent mulligans down to six and the game begins. My opponent plays and sacrifices a fetchland finding Overgrown Tomb and plays Wild Nacatl. My opponent hasn't seen my deck yet and doesn't know I have Darkblast. I draw a Raven's Crime, play my Darkblast killing Wild Nacatl, and pass the turn. My opponent plays Tarmogoyf. I draw another Seat of the Synod, play Arcane Sanctum, and use Wretched Banquet on the Tarmogoyf. I pass the turn. My opponent plays a third land and plays Kird Ape before passing. I draw a Time Stretch, play my Trinket Mage, find Chalice of the Void, and pass. My opponent plays Lightning Helix targeting me during my end step, then attacks with Kird Ape and passes. On my turn I draw Compulsive Research and play Chalice of the Void for 2 before attacking. My opponent Incinerates me in response to the Chalice, then draws and plays Wild Nacatl before attacking.

I get lucky on my next turn and draw my Engineered Explosives. I play it for 1 and sacrifice it before attacking with Trinket Mage. Then I play Raven's Crime. My opponent draws and plays Woolly Thoctar. I draw Spellweaver Helix, play my Compulsive Research drawing Raven's Crime, Thirst for Knowledge, and Vault of Whispers. I discard Time Stretch and Thirst for Knowledge. My opponent draws and plays Path to Exile on my Trinket Mage and attacks with the 5/4. I take the damage and go to 5.

On my turn I draw another Time Stretch, play Spellweaver Helix, and imprint Raven's Crime and Time Stretch. I then play Raven's Crime and take two extra turns. I use Raven's Crime retrace and discard my Vault of Whispers and take another two turns. I explain that I can take infinite turns with Academy Ruins and Vault of Whispers, and my opponent concedes.

Sideboarding: I take out the 3 Darkblast, 3 Time Stretch, and the Sigil of Distinction. I bring in 3 Cruel Ultimatum, Sunbeam Spellbomb, 2 Cruel Edict and Spellweaver Helix.

Game 2

I keep Raven's Crime, Cruel Ultimatum, Executioner's capsule, Spellweaver Helix, Arcane Sanctum, Swamp, and Swamp on the draw. My opponent opens up with a Kird Ape. I draw another Raven's crime and play my capsule. My opponent attacks for two and plays a Wild Nacatl and Seal of Fire. I draw a Wretched Banquet, play my Swamp, and pass the turn. I kill the Wild Nacatl when my opponent attacks. He simply passes the turn back to me. On my turn I draw Academy Ruins. I play Wretched Banquet targeting the Ape and play Raven's Crime targeting myself to discard the Cruel Ultimatum, I play one of my Arcane Sanctums and pass. My opponent taps out for Wooly Thoctar and passes. I draw an Island, play my Academy Ruins, play Spellweaver Helix imprinting Cruel Ultimatum and Raven's Crime, and play the Raven's Crime in my hand. My opponent see the writing on the wall and concedes the game.

Matchup overview: I don't think the Zoo matchup is as good as it seemed. I only had a chance to play two games. The deck is definitely capable of winning the matchup, but the Zoo decks are capable of drawing very well and putting a lot of pressure on us. I'm happy the deck performed well, but I don't want to go out on a limb and say this is a good matchup just yet.


Round 2 vs. Faeries

Game 1

I mulligan and keep Spellweaver Helix, Darkblast, Raven's Crime, Arcane Sanctum, Academy Ruins, and Vault of Whispers on the draw. My opponent opens with an Island. I draw a Thirst for Knowledge, play my Arcane Sanctum, and pass. My opponent plays a fetchland and passes. I draw a Swamp, play it, and attempt to Raven's Crime my opponent. The Raven's Crime meets a Spellstutter Sprite, but I have Darkblast at the ready. My opponent discards a Vedalken Shackles. My opponent plays another land and passes. I dredge my Darkblast, play my third land, and pass the turn. My opponent misses his fourth land drop. I play Thirst for Knowledge on his end step, and he plays Vendilion Clique in response, putting the Darkblast in my hand on the bottom. Between the Clique draw and the Thirst for Knowledge, I draw Time Stretch, Seat of the Synod, Trinket Mage, and Sigil of Distinction. I discard the Time Stretch and the Sigil. On my turn I draw Raven's Crime. I love "Oops, I win!" moments. I play my fourth land, play Spellweaver Helix, imprint Time Stretch and Raven's Crime, and play the Raven's Crime in my hand. I show the artifact land, and my opponent concedes.

Sideboarding: I take out 4 Wretched Banquet and bring in Darkblast, Night of Souls' Betrayal, and 2 Trickbind. The Trickbind can be used to counter my opponent's Ancestral Visions.

Game 2

I keep an opener of Darkblast, Raven's Crime, Swamp, Vault of Whispers, Seat of the Synod, Arcane Sanctum, and Arcane Sanctum. My opponent mulligans to four and plays a Mutavault. I draw an Island, play a Swamp, and use Raven's Crime. My opponent discards a Vendilion Clique, then plays a second land and attacks for 2 with Mutavault. On my turn I draw Trinket Mage and play Raven's Crime twice. My opponent discards a Cryptic Command and a Venser. My opponent attacks with his Mutavault again and passes. On my turn I draw another land and play Trinket Mage finding my Sigil of Distinction. My opponent draws a third land, plays it, and attacks me again with Mutavault. On my turn I use Raven's Crime on my opponent, who discards Spell Snare. I use Raven's Crime until my opponent has no cards left in hand and then attack with my Trinket Mage. My opponent draws and attacks again. On my turn I draw yet another land, play my Sigil for 4, make my Trinket Mage a 5/5, and attack. My opponent goes to 10. (He took damage from his lands.) I attack a few more times and have Darkblast for my opponent's Vendilion Clique. The game ends in short order.

Match overview: This seems like a good matchup. We have all the tools we need to win an attrition war. They have to counter our Spellweaver Helix, but we have Academy Ruins and can try to resolve Raven's Crime every turn until they run out of counters.


Round 3 vs. Astral Slide

Game 1

I keep Raven's Crime, Wretched Banquet, Spellweaver Helix, Arcane Sanctum, Arcane Sanctum, Vault of Whispers, Seat of the Synod on the play. I play an Arcane Sanctum on turn one and pass. My opponent plays a Tranquil Thicket. I draw a Compulsive Research, play another Arcane Sanctum, play Raven's Crime, (My opponent discards a Like from the Loam.) and pass. My opponent dredges Life from the Loam and bins two lands in the process. He then plays a fetchland, sacrifices it, and plays Life getting back three lands. He discards on his end step and passes. I draw Thirst for Knowledge, play Vault of Whispers, and play Compulsive Research. I draw Spellweaver Helix, Island, and Swamp. I discard the Island and pass. My opponent plays Astral Slide and passes. On my turn I play another land and use Thirst for Knowledge. I draw Time Stretch and two lands. I discard Wretched Banquet and Time Stretch before passing. My opponent cycles some lands and finds a Lightning Rift, which he plays before passing the turn. I draw another Compulsive Research and play it, drawing another Raven's Crime and a pair of Wretched Banquet. I discard the Wretched Banquets. My opponent plays a land and starts Rifting me with lands. He passes the turn, and I play the Spellweaver Helix and put six extra turns on the stack. I proceed to draw three Darkblast in a row. The next turn I draw a Trinket Mage, the Mage finds a land, and I put two more turns on the stack. On my seventh extra turn I draw Academy Ruins and use it to put an artifact land on the top of my library. My opponent concedes.

Sideboarding: I take out 3 Darkblast and 4 Wretched Banquet. I bring in one Spellweaver Helix, three Trickbind, and three Sunbeam Spellbomb. The Trickbinds aren't that great here, but they're significantly better than our Darkblast, the Sunbeam Spellbombs are used as cantrips to maximize our chances of drawing the combo.

Game 2

I keep Island, Swamp, Arcane Sanctum, Compulsive Research, Time Stretch, Spellweaver Helix, Thirst for Knowledge. My opponent plays a land and passes. I draw a Chalice of the Void, play a land, and pass. The game basically functions as draw go. My opponent plays lands and cycles them and starts gaining card advantage with Life from the Loam. Eventually he plays a Kitchen finks on his ninth turn. I still haven't found a second Raven's crime, but my opponent isn't putting much pressure on me. I suspect he sided out most of his win conditions to stop my combo. He has a few Ancient Grudges in his graveyard that he has dredged up and I can't go off just yet. I'm at eleven when I draw my tenth land and handcast my Time Stretch. I have a pair of Spellweaver Helix in my hand but I only have one Raven's Crime in my graveyard. I draw another Time Stretch and play it. It's really frustrating when you take four extra turns and aren't sure if you can win. On my fourth turn I draw the second copy of Raven's Crime and decide I have to go for it. I play my Chalice of the Void for 2 to stop his Ancient Grudges. I then play my Spellweaver Helix and imprint the combo. I play the Raven's Crime but my opponent has a Ghost Quarter that he can use on my Academy Ruins when I draw it. I decide to just use every land I draw as a Time Stretch and try to get there. I get to a Trinket Mage and find my Sigil. I play my Sigil for 10 and equip it the next turn, but it gets Slided out. This goes on for awhile until my opponent runs out of cyclers. I'm lucky enough to have drawn a few card-drawing spells and I have six extra turns on the stack. Eventually I'm able to attack, and I draw enough card draw and land to keep my opponent out of the game.

Match overview: This match seems very easy. Be careful for Duergar Hedge-Mage after sideboards. It's best to hold artifact lands to use with the combo if you are able. Try fetching your Chalice and playing it for 2 on the turn you combo—you need to protect your Helix from Ancient Grudge. If your opponent has a Hedge-Mage in play with Slide, you need to save a Trickbind and the mana to use it—otherwise they can break up your combo. This may seem like a tall order, but their deck is very slow and you have plenty of time to set up a big turn.


I hope you all enjoyed this break from the norm. I think Extended is a very healthy format with a lot of options for originality. A deck featuring Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker just won a PTQ. I don't think this deck is quite ready for the PTQ circuit, but I think it's a lot of fun to play and it will have enough game to be interesting.

I was thinking about working on this deck more and presenting a series of columns refining the list over another week or two. A lot of people in the forums want me to explain deck evolution and I'd be happy to work on this list and see where we can go with it. As always, send me your e-mails and write in the forums.

Happy brewing!

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