With six Swiss rounds left in the 2001 World Championships, the Magic world turned its attention to Extended. There hasn't been a major Extended event since the DCI completely shook up the format by banning Survival of the Fittest, Necropotence, Demonic Consultation, and Replenish. Is Illusions-Donate finally dead? Could anyone find a new broken deck? More importantly, who's going to make Top 8?
I took a stroll along the top tables during round 13 to see what turned up and here are the decks and players to watch:
Gab Tsang led the tournament coming into Day 3Gab Tsang - The hometown hero had a 1-point lead and a horde of locals following his every move as round 1 began. He took an awesome Stompy deck into battle with none other than Jon Finkel for a round 1 Feature Match. Ghazban Ogres, Briar Shields, Elvish Spirit Guides, Skyshroud Elites, the works! Ben Rubin was also spotted in the Feature Match area with Rogue Elephant in play.
Jon Finkel - Finkel is running Draw-Go. Surprise, surprise. Actually, I was surprised by one of the cards he had in play: Veiled Serpent! For 2U, it comes down as an enchantment. Whenever your opponent plays a spell, it wakes up and turns into a 4/4 creature that can't attack unless your opponent has an island. Of course, blue is widely regarded as the best color in Extended right now, and against the nonblue decks (like Stompy and Sligh), Draw-Go is quite happy just to have a 4/4 blocker. Billy Jensen designed "Baby Bluey" (which also includes City of Traitors and Rushing River) and is also playing it.
Brian Selden - The 1999 World Champion, like Finkel, was only one point out of first as Day 3 began. He's running a monoblue Illusions-Donate deck very similar to the one posted to the Sideboard last week by Mike Kryzwicki. Team Godzilla took that deck, tuned it up a bit (removing Helm of Awakening and changing about a dozen cards in total) and it's being played by Kai Budde, Scott Johns, and Patrick Mello in addition to Selden.
Antoine Ruel - The Ruel brothers have been testing a lot with the Dutch, and most of that crew brought a teched out White Weenie deck to the table for Day 3. They're splashing blue for Meddling Mage and they're also running Ramosian Sergeants so they can recruit Steadfast Guards into play, which should demolish Stasis! I only saw one Stasis deck at the top tables - it was being played by Italian Andea Santin - and poor Santin seems doomed. In addition to Ruel, the Dutch white weenie is being run by Tom van de Logt (who beat Santin in the first round), Frank Karsten, Wessel Oomens and Kamiel Cornelissen, all of whom are near the top of the standings.
The Slovak Republic's Jan TomcaniJan Tomcani - The "Slovak Surprise" was the fourth and final player at 10-2. He's running Sligh. Everyone always tests against it and lives in fear of Jackal Pups, Ball Lightnings, and Fireblasts, but Tomcani was the only person I saw actually running Sligh. He 6-0ed Day 1 with Fires, so he clearly knows how to run a beatdown deck. His record today will tell us a lot about the viability of Sligh in the new Extended.
Basically, there does not appear to be any one deck that's just better than the others. If such a dominant deck existed, I suspect that multiple teams would have found it and there wouldn't be such a remarkable diversity of decks getting played. It'll be interesting to see if any one deck rises to the top of the Swiss, but right now what it looks like is that everyone just ran the deck they like the most and know how to play the best. Here are some more examples:
Bob Maher - The reigning Player of the Year and Worlds runner-up won the last Extended Pro Tour with an Enlightened Tutor-based blue-green-white Oath of Druids deck that has come to be called "Maher Oath." He also won GP-Seattle with the deck before Trix took over the environment. With a 9-3 record in his pocket and six rounds of his specialty format with his specialty deck standing between him and another Top 8, a lot of people have their eye on him. Overgrown Estate and especially Pernicious Deed went straight into the main deck, by the way. Other players running Oath include Justin Gary, Brock Parker, and Tommi Hovi. I heard several players predict at Tuesday's player reception that Friday would be all Oath, all the time. It doesn't look like an overwhelming portion of the field right now, but of course we'll need to keep an eye on what rises to the top of the Swiss.
Zvi MowshowitzZvi Mowshowitz - Zvi has convinced himself over and over again that Turbo-Land is the best deck in Extended. He hasn't been right yet, but this time the rest of Team Godzilla admits that he might be right and Alan Comer also decided to run Turbo-Land on Friday. Zvi's pet deck uses Exploration and Horn of Greed to generate huge card advantage and then "goes off" with Time Warp once it gets a lot of land into play.
Jon Ormerod - The third deck being run by portions of Team Godzilla is Draw-Go with a splash of green for Gaea's Blessing. That's what Ormerod, Ben Ronaldson, and Gary Wise chose to play today.
Dave Humpherys - The Hump and his teammate Darwin Kastle are both running a graveyard recursion deck with Hermit Druid and Intuition to fill up the graveyard and Ashen Ghoul plus Oath of Ghouls to exploit it.
Alex Borteh - Columbus player Alex Borteh is running an Ohio Valley special: Three-Deuce. It's a red-green beatdown deck (think Granger Guildmage) that splashes white for lots of enchantment removal.
Trey van Cleave & Rob Dougherty are each running Counter-Sliver. Isn't that nice?
Brian Kibler - And then there's Brian Kibler. He too is running his all-time favorite cards, only his haven't actually been good in Extended before. He was all smiles after trouncing a Sligh deck in the first round by Cloaking up a Rith in game 1 and then in game 2 he Cloaked up a Verdant Force. ON TURN 4! "The Best Fatty Ever Printed" (as proclaimed by Jamie Wakefield) came out on turn 3 thanks to a Natural Order. The spirit of Wakefield also lives in Mike Turian and Eugene Harvey, who are running more sane Secret Force variants.
The new Extended seems to have lots of decks and lots of smiles. Stick around to see who's still smiling at the end of round 18.