Feature: How Long Left on the Clock?

Posted in Event Coverage on September 4, 2010

By Tim Willoughby

Every format has a certain pace to it. There is a reason that some decks see heavy play, while others languish on the sidelines, and that reason is often down to how quick or slow a format is. Drafting Zendikar was an exercise in discipline, realising that drafting expensive powerful spells could simply be incorrect, as getting up to seven mana was an unrealistic goal for a lot of games.

Looking at the new Extended format, there is a vast range of decks of different speeds around. As with any format, slower control decks are making a point of trying to slow down the clock presented by quick combo decks or aggressive builds, so that they can do their thing.

At one end of the spectrum we have the dredge deck. Aiming at filling its graveyard to power out quick kills, it can get there as quickly as turn two with a good draw and little disruption. Part of the strength of Dredge comes in its speed, making it harder for opponents to draw into whatever graveyard hate they might have.

Once we get past turn two, we start seeing a conglomeration of decks that can kill around turn four given appropriate draws. Julien Nujiten has had quite a few turn-four kills by starting out with quick Warren Instigators, and many of the red burn decks have a similar fundamental turn.

Warren Instigator

Luis Scott-Vargas and Brian Kibler have described their Doran deck as "Tree Combo." If the deck has Treefolk Harbinger and Treetop Village in its starting hand, along with some other lands, it has the potential for a turn-four kill. Turn one Murmuring Bosk into Treefolk Harbinger, fetching another Treefolk Harbinger. Turn two, Treetop Village and Harbinger into Doran, the Siege Tower. Turn three Doran, with some attacks for 6, followed by turn four attacks for 14. This is the undisrupted speed of the deck, and while it will typically run more slowly, it is powerful to be able to present such a threat.

Treefolk Harbinger
Treetop Village

Ad Nauseam, as a combo, can be deceptive in its speed, because it goes from practically nothing to a kill all in one big turn. The amount of mana the deck needs to go off is normally six (Ad Nauseam plus Angel's Grace), however, that amount of mana can often be reached closer to turn four thanks to acceleration like Simian Spirit Guide, Lotus Bloom, and Coalition Relic.

Simian Spirit Guide
Coalition Relic

Coalition Relic is a key accelerant and color fixer for most of the control decks in the format. While these decks are typically not aiming to end the game quickly, Shaheen Soorani has certainly surprised a few people with turn-four Grave Titans, and turn-five Cruel Ultimatum.

Grave Titan
Cruel Ultimatum

Finally we have Pyromancer Ascension. This deck does a good job of taking a greater than typical number of turns, but doing so all in a row, without letting opponents in on the game. This is a combo/control deck that waits out other decks, and preys on them when they are close to the kill. Much like Ad Nauseam, this is a deck that can go from zero to hero in no time at all. When Lightning Bolt deals 6 or 9 damage and you are taking a bunch of turns in a row, Pyromancer Ascension will put a full stop on any game.

Pyromancer Ascension
Lightning Bolt

Disruption and acceleration play key roles in this format, as each player works to get ahead in the race to victory. One of the things that has stood both White Weenie and Doran decks in good stead this weekend is a very solid disruption package. Ethersworn Canonist is a beater that really puts the hurt on both cascade combo and Ad Nauseam. Duress and Thoughtseize can pick apart many a perfect start. We've even seen Kai stopping Restore Balance with Lapse of Certainty. Being control is not all about being blue, or even about being slow.

Restore Balance
Lapse of Certainty

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