I spent two columns (In the Balance, and More Restore) last year talking about an interesting Extended archetype that approaches the game from a very unique angle. A lot has changed since last year. The recent Extended rotation changed the archetypes available. The banning of Hypergenesis has made powerful combos a lot harder to accomplish properly. I've always been a Johnny, though—I just can't help myself if there's an exploitable combo.
Restore Balance takes one of the most powerful cards in the history of Magic—Balance—and attaches a huge drawback. Suspend 6 is a lot. So much so, that successfully resolving the spell through cascade, in a deck that is built to abuse it, is almost impossible.
Luckily, cascade gives us a way to cheat Restore Balance onto the stack. Here's the plan: I want to develop a board with a lot of artifacts and empty my hand as quickly as possible. I wait until the last turn before my opponent is likely to kill me and cast any spell with cascade. Restore Balance is the only spell with a converted mana cost less than three, so I'm guaranteed to hit it. My opponent's board will be whittled away to nothing and they will be forced to discard at least the majority of their hand. Once this has been accomplished I can clean up the game with a Greater Gargadon or Tezzeret the Seeker.
Lets take a look at the cards available after the rotation:
The Borderposts are essential to this decks function. They ignore Restore Balance and have a converted mana cost of three. Playing with a healthy number of Borderposts will ensure that I always have a few copies to develop my board.
The three-mana cascade spells are essential pieces in a deck like this. I want to play as many as I can in an effort to maximize my chances of drawing at least one copy. Remember, if I don't draw a three-mana cascade spell then my deck doesn't function. Playing the full twelve may seem a little overboard, but maximizing the efficacy of the list is very important, especially when trying a new archetype.
My old version used March of the Machines and Totems to end the game, but the availability of Tezzeret the Seeker and Greater Gargadon have increased dramatically since last year. I wouldn't have been so bold as to include cards so sought after in a Building on a Budget column last year, but the ease at which these cards can be traded for now makes them far more accessible to my reader-base.
Coalition Relic is a card I must have just missed the last time around. This card is superior to Darksteel Ingot in every way and, coincidentally, it's still legal in a post-rotation Extended. As a side note, this is one of my favorite cards in Cube draft!
Rift Bolt is an excellent anti-creature measure here. Its converted mana cost is three, so it won't hinder our ability to combo.
Lets take a look at the list for the new Extended.
The sideboard is pretty tough for a deck like this. An obvious problem is counterspells. Fortunately there are a few options available to us in our war against control decks. First, we have Ricochet Trap. The trap seems like the best card available against most decks with counter-magic, unfortunately, our deck is still very weak to Spellstutter Sprite. I haven't tested it out yet, but a combination of Volcanic Fallout and Ricochet Trap seems like it could be enough to force our combo through against a Faeries player, if we play tight. I still worry about cards like Ancient Grudge being used to attack our mana. Simian Spirit Guide is a very good way to combat these types of post-sideboard plans. Trespasser il-Vec is another very well-placed tool against aggressive decks that lack counter-magic. I like playing the Trespasser and using him to trade with another creature. After I declare my blocks I discard my whole hand except the cascade spell. When I cast the cascade spell the next turn, I get to leave my opponent without permanents or cards in hand. It's a pretty nice feeling.
Here's the sideboard I'd play with.
I played a few matches with the deck to see how things went.
I lost the roll and picked up Island, Mountain, Fieldmist Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, Coalition Relic, Coalition Relic, Violent Outburst. My opponent played a Raging Ravine and passed the turn. I drew a Greater Gargadon, play my Mountain, cast Mistvein Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Misty Rainforest, popped it for an Island, suspended an Ancestral Vision, and passed the turn back. I drew a Firewild Borderpost and played my Mountain. I suspended Greater Gargadon, then cast Firewild Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Flooded Grove and passed the turn. I drew another Violent Outburst and my opponent cast a Vendilion Clique during my draw step. My opponent wasn't sure what was going on and he took one of the Violent Outbursts. I drew a Rift Bolt. I played my Mountain again and cast Coalition Relic, I suspended my Rift Bolt and passed the turn. My opponent cast a Bloodbraid Elf and flipped into an Ancestral Vision. He attacked for 6 and passed the turn.
I drew Ardent Plea after using the Rift Bolt on my opponent's face. I played my Island, cast Coalition Relic, sacrificed both my lands to the Greater Gargadon, and cast Ardent Plea. I flipped into a Restore Balance and destroyed all four of my opponent's lands and both of his creatures. I passed the turn back to my opponent. He passed the turn back without any play. I drew Tezzeret the Seeker, cast my last Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Cascade Bluffs and passed the turn back. I drew a Forest, played it, cast Tezzeret the Seeker, and untapped a pair of artifacts. My opponent used his Ancestral Vision on himself, played a Flooded Grove, and passed the turn back to me. I used Tezzeret's ultimate and attacked for lethal damage.
I won the roll, mulliganed, and kept Plains, Veinfire Borderpost, Wildfield Borderpost, Fieldmist Borderpost, Ardent Plea, Violent Outburst. My opponent opened with a Secluded Glen revealing a Bitterblossom and Thoughtseized me. He took the Violent Outburst and passed the turn. I drew a Tezzeret the Seeker, cast my Fieldmist Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mutavault and cast Bitterblossom. I drew a Greater Gargadon, cast Wildfield Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Faerie Conclave tapped and passed the turn. I drew a Coalition Relic and attempted to cast it. My opponent had a Spellstutter Sprite. My opponent attacked me for 2, played a fourth land, and passed the turn.
I drew another Coaltion Relic and attempted to cast it. My opponent used a Cryptic Command to counter the Coalition Relic and return a Borderpost back to my hand. My opponent attacked me for 3 and passed the turn back. I drew Greater Gargadon, replayed my Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent attacked me for 6 after activating a Mutavault, and passed the turn. It was a do-or-die situation so I attempted to cast Ardent Plea, I cascaded into Restore Balance and my opponent had the Spellstutter Sprite. On his turn he had another land and was able to activate the Mutavault and the Conclave.
I lost the roll and kept Island, Swamp, Veinfire Borderpost, Coalition Relic, Greater Gargadon, Demonic Dread, Restore Balance. My opponent played a land and passed the turn. I drew a Mountain, played it, suspended Greater Gargadon, and passed the turn. My opponent cycled a guy on my end step, drew for his turn, played another land and passed the turn. I drew a Mistvein Borderpost, cast both of my Borderposts, and passed the turn. My opponent cycled another creature on my end step. My opponent evoked an Ingot Chewer and destroyed one of my Borderpost before passing the turn. I drew a Wildfield Borderpost, cast it, and passed the turn back to my opponent. My opponent drew another Ingot Chewer off the top and evoked it. He cast an Ardent Plea and flipped into Living End, the Ingot Chewers destroyed the remainder of my mana and he attacked me with a 5/1. I drew for my turn and didn't find any help. I conceded.
I won the roll, mulliganed twice, and kept, Mountain, Greater Gargadon, Firewild Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, Coalition Relic. I played my Mountain, suspended the Greater Gargadon, and passed the turn. My opponent played a Mountain, cast a Goblin Guide, attacked for 2, I revealed a Violent Outburst, and passed the turn. I drew the Violent Outburst, cast a Borderpost, replayed my land, cast another Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent played another land, cast Hellspark Elemental, attacked me for 5, (I revealed another Borderpost) and passed the turn. I drew the Fieldmist Borderpost I had revealed the turn before. I played my land, cast Coalition Relic, cast my Fieldmist Borderpost, and passed the turn. My opponent unearthed the Hellspark Elemental and attacked for another 5. I revealed another Greater Gargadon and went to 8.
I drew the Greater Gargadon I had revealed the turn before, suspended it, played my land, tapped it for mana, sacrificed it to the second Gargadon, cast Violent Outburst, and flipped into Restore Balance. I left my opponent with no cards in hand and no permanents in play. I passed the turn. My opponent drew his card and passed the turn. I drew an Island, played it, sacrificed all my permanents to the Greater Gargadon with less counters, attacked for 9, and passed the turn. My opponent drew another card and passed the turn. I attacked for another 9 and passed the turn. My opponent drew for his turn and conceded.
Well, that went pretty well. The Restore Balance deck is very powerful against opponents that can't interact with it. Unfortunately, cheap artifact removal and counter-magic will remain huge problems for a deck like this. I'm not quite sure how to solve the problems, but I'd be happy to hear your suggestions in an email or on the forums.
Whenever I play with this deck I can't help but think about the first time an opponent cast Balance against me. I remember being in awe of the power granted by that card. It was like a two-mana one-sided Armageddon, Mind Twist, and Wrath of God all wrapped into one. Balance was the first card my brothers and our friends decided to ban within our play group. Of course, I was the only one playing with Balance and its banning was entirely my older brother's idea. I haven't had many chances to Balance an opponent since then and this deck gives me a chance to do that.
I've received a lot of emails in reference to the math I used for mana bases in my last column. I want to clarify that the math in the column is used to find the ratio of certain color-producing lands in a specific deck. The numbers yielded by the math shouldn't affect the actual number of lands you decide to play.