Extended Overview

Posted in Feature on February 2, 2005

By Alex Shvartsman

Once upon a time, Constructed Magic did not have many rules. You got to play with the cards you owned—be it forty copies of Plague Rat or two Black Lotus. As the game grew and became more and more a legitimate mind sport, stricter rules were needed to govern the way it is played. Inevitably, Type 1 and Type 2 formats were developed (now known to most as Classic and Standard).

As more and more Magic expansions were printed, the divide between Classic and Standard players grew. More and more folks ended up with plenty of cards they could no longer use in Standard, but without the impressive collections they needed to be competitive in Classic either. The Wizards of the Coast Organized Play department searched for solutions. Their answer was to create a format that would eventually become known as Type 1.5. It was essentially Type 1 where all the restricted cards were banned instead. Although personally I thought this format was quite interesting, it seems that most players did not share my opinion. Type 1.5 enjoyed lackluster support from the Magic community, and although it still exists, it is perhaps the most obscure of the sanctionable ways to play Magic.

A different answer was needed—a format where cards would constantly rotate out, much like in Standard, but have a significantly longer shelf-life. A format that would have its own banned list and make it possible for the currently in-print cards to be viable and influence the metagame. Thus Extended was born.

With so many more cards always available to build decks from, Extended tends to gear toward extremely broken. Turn 2 and 3 kills are not unheard of, ridiculous combos where infinite life is gained or infinite damage is dealt are pulled off regularly, and yet control decks are often powerful enough to keep up. Although it takes more commitment to play this format than Standard, it is definitely affordable. No Extended-legal card costs over $30, and most can be traded for with relative ease.

If you are looking to see what’s winning in Extended today, you may be unpleasantly surprised to find out that it’s the same old deck that has been winning in Standard: Affinity. Pierre Canali won Pro Tour: Columbus with a version of Affinity deck that differs little from its Standard counterparts. The main difference is the Meddling Mages. Perhaps the best Invitational card ever designed, Meddling Mage truly awards the better player, who can use his understanding of the format and his matchup to prohibit the opponent from playing just the right card.

Although the lack of zero-casting cost artifacts such as Ornithopter or Welding Jar makes this version’s potential draws a bit less explosive, the deck benefits greatly from the fact that Extended metagame is not nearly as attuned to hate Affinity as the Standard metagame. Though perhaps after Canali’s victory this is going to change.

Affinity

Affinity may be a relative newcomer to the Extended metagame, but the deck it beat in the finals is an old favorite. Shuhei Nakamura piloted a mono-red deck into the finals that has been around for many, many years. The deck’s plan is relatively simple—come out of the gates ultra-fast, harshly punishing any slow draw, then slow down the opponent with minor land destruction, and just finish them off with burn. This is the deck list Nakamura used in Columbus:

Mono-red

And this is the deck list designed by Seth Burn that I used to make top 8 at Grand Prix: Seattle in January of 2000!

Mono-red

Although many of the cards have changed, the deck’s concept remains the same. This is a recurring theme with some of the format’s most popular decks, such as Reanimator, White Weenie variants (usually splashing red, blue, or both), and Blue and White Control.

New variations on old themes pop up all the time in this format. This January 1st, Neutral Ground held its annual Time Walk tournament in the Extended format. It was won by an unorthodox build by John Alvarado called Scepter Chant.

Scepter Chant

Creature (6)
2 Exalted Angel 4 Meddling Mage
Artifact (8)
4 Chrome Mox 4 Isochron Scepter
Other (6)
3 Fire/Ice 3 Orim’s Chant
60 Cards
Sideboard (15)
1 Fire/Ice 1 Orim’s Chant 3 Chill 1 Disenchant 3 Energy Flux 1 Forbid 1 Intuition 1 Misdirection 1 Stifle 2 Wrath of God

Alvarado surprised many opponents with an Orim’s Chant/Isochron Scepter combo—something many decks in this format cannot really answer pre-sideboard. Original decks like these are more of a rule than an exception in this format. There are so many card combinations that there is always opportunity to discover something new.

A perfect example of such is Israeli player Uri Peleg, who designed the Food Chain Goblins deck that made such a splash a bit over a year ago. Uri was the only one who thought of such an obscure rare as Food Chain and figured out just how broken it could be when combined with a Goblin strategy. Combined with Goblin Matron and Goblin Recruiter, the deck could often win almost immediately upon playing Food Chain.

This is a version of Peleg’s Food Chain deck modified by team Your Move Games.

Food Chain

There are several Grand Prix tournaments and numerous qualifiers coming up in Extended format over the next few months. Who knows how many interesting new decks we will see develop at these events. Will players break any of the Kamigawa cards? Your first look at the new metagame will come on the weekend of February 5–6 at Grand Prix: Boston.

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