Urza Has Spiraled Back into Extended

Posted in Feature on October 11, 2006

By Frank Karsten

Hello, and welcome to another installment of Online Tech. Last week was an exciting one, because the preliminary events for the Magic Online World Championships qualifier were run. I was unable to shout them out in my column last week because I did not get this information in time, but fortunately Brian David-Marshall announced them last Friday and alerted the players who don’t log on to Magic Online daily to this awesome tournament. If you haven’t qualified yet, today is your last chance. You can find the event schedule here.

The players who managed to finish in the Top 8 in one of the preliminary events get to play in the Magic Online World Championship Qualifier, which is scheduled on Saturday, October 14 at 9:00 AM PST. The format of the World Championship qualifier is Standard, and the booster prize support is equal to a 6x Premier Event. But it’s not about the boosters, of course. The winner will also receive an invitation to compete in the World Championships, which will take place November 29 – December 3, 2006 in Paris, France. As such, it is a one-time opportunity that gives Magic Online players a chance to qualify and compete in the most exciting and highest level Magic: The Gathering tournament of the year. To make the deal even sweeter, airfare and hotel in France for the winner and a guest of choice is included in the prize as well. See the complete announcement here.

If you are qualified for the World Championship Qualifier event, there are a couple things you have to keep in mind. First, if multiple accounts of yours are qualified for the World Championship Qualifier event, you may only play on one of them. This way, everyone has an equal fair chance to qualify for Worlds. If you are caught with more than one account of yours playing in the World Championship Qualifier event, this may result in significant penalties. Furthermore, if a player wins who is already qualified for Worlds or ineligible to play in DCI-sanctioned tournaments, then the Worlds invitation will pass down to the player with the best finish who is not already invited to Worlds. The final Swiss standings will determine the difference between third and fourth place and the difference between fifth through eighth place, should that be necessary. So keep that in mind when you consider drawing or conceding in the last round. And I’d also like to take this time to remind everyone who is qualified to email molworldsqt@wizards.com by Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 5:00 PM PDT with the following information: Full Legal Name, Full Address, Telephone number, and DCI Number. Don’t forget it!

Because many of the preliminary events were Standard and attendance was high, we have a lot of data to draw from.

Deck namePopularity Change in popularity
from last week
1. Solar Flare■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■■ (18%)+7% (!!!)
2. Satanic Sligh■■■■■ ■■■■■ ■■ (12%)-3%
3. Sea Stompy■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)-1%
4. GhaziGlare■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)+7% (!!!)
5. Snakes■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+3%
6. Hand in Hand■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+7% (!!!)
7. Dutch Simic Aggro■■■■■ ■ (6%)-9% (!!!)
8. Izzetron■■■■■ (5%)+4%
9. Zoo■■■■ (4%)+3%
10. Ghost Dad■■■■ (4%)+3%
11. Heartbeat combo■■■ (3%)-6%
12. Structure & Force■■■ (3%)+3%
13. Magnivore■■■ (3%)-9% (!!!)
14. Boros Deck Wins■■ (2%)+2%
15. Reanimator■■ (2%)NEW
16. Ghost Husk■■ (2%)+2%
17. Blue-White Control■■ (2%)+2%
18. Blue-Black Winterbalance■ (1%)-5%
19. Battle of Wits■ (1%)-3%
20. Counterbalance Ideal ■ (1%)-2%

There were a couple differences from last week, but nothing extraordinary. The metagame seems relatively stable and fleshed out. Magnivore and Dutch Simic Aggro saw less play, whereas Solar Flare, GhaziGlare and Hand in Hand boomed in popularity. All in all, Solar Flare, Satanic Sligh, and green decks with one-drop mana accelerants still make up the majority of the decks.

We also saw a brand new deck, Reanimator. This deck was piloted by yamasho and takoha6253 to the top 8 of two Worlds Qualifier Qualifiers. I’d bet they are Japanese, since their deck had the looks and feeling of a Japanese deck. I mean that as a compliment, since their deck was innovative and smart, like most Japanese builds. I didn’t catch either of them online to ask for a decklist, so I watched the replays myself, noting all the cards. Based on that information, I constructed the following deck, which should be roughly equal to their actual list.

Reanimator – Standard

Download Arena Decklist

Footsteps of the Goryo
This blue-black deck can be broken down into three interacting parts. The first part of the deck is made up of graveyard fillers. Drowned Rusalka, Ideas Unbound, Thought Courier, Compulsive Research, and Vexing Sphinx allow you to discard cards often and early. The next part of the deck consists of the cards you want to discard: a couple Dragons and the clever Protean Hulk. The last piece of the deck that glues everything together consists of the reanimator spells: Zombify, Footsteps of the Goryo and Vigor Mortis. The goal is to dump a fatty in the graveyard quickly, then get it back in play for a cheap mana cost. The deck has a couple interesting choices, most notably Protean Hulk. This man is resistant to Wrath of God and searches a dragon out of your deck when it dies. It also allows you to play a couple silver bullet creatures that can be tutored up when the situation arises: Kagemaro, First to Suffer and Mindslicer can be potentially devastating targets.

Also note the focus on Footsteps of the Goryo over Vigor Mortis, which is a good choice in this deck for multiple reasons. First, it is only three mana and only requires one black mana to play. Second, most of the reanimator targets do something useful when they go to the graveyard, so you are actually happy to sacrifice them. Footsteps of the Goryo on Kokusho, the Evening Star takes ten points of life for three mana, and playing it on Protean Hulk is awesome for similar reasons. This brings me to Drowned Rusalka, which is invaluable in the deck not only because it is a discard outlet, but also because it can trigger the leave-play abilities in a pinch. The deck is quite cleverly construed, that’s for sure.

Deck Recommendation

A couple players have approached me already for advice on what to play in the World Championships Qualifier next weekend. I find it harder and harder to come up with a good answer. Solar Flare and Satanic Sligh are solid decks that have proven themselves over the last couple week, but there is no deck in the format that I can point out as the “best deck.” The problem is that the metagame is so open and that there are so many viable decks. There simply is no “best deck!” The correct decision is to pick a deck that fits your playing style, or one you have a lot of experience with. You’ll win at least one extra match in a tournament by playing a deck you know inside out. My point is that you will have the best chance with a deck you’re comfortable with and know how to play well, not with a deck chosen last minute based on a friend’s recommendation.

Diving into Extended Once Again

The last time I reported on Extended was a month and a half ago. In that article, I covered Aggro Loam and Gifts Rock in detail, which were the most popular decks back then. So what was happening in the land of Extended during the last six months?

Deck namePopularity Change in popularity from last month
1. Aggro Loam■■■■■ ■■■■■ (10%)-12% (!!!)
2. Mono Green Aggro■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)+8% (!!!)
3. Izzetron■■■■■ ■■■ (8%)+5% (!!!)
4. Blue-White Urzatron■■■■■ ■■ (7%)+7% (!!!)
5. Affinity■■■■■ ■ (6%)-1%
6. Burning Tog■■■■■ ■ (6%)-1%
7. Blue-Black Tog■■■■■ (5%)+4%
8. Heartbeat Combo■■■■■ (5%)+1%
9. Aggro Rock■■■■■ (5%)+4%
10. Scepter/Chant■■■■■ (5%)+3%
11. Red-Green Beats■■■■■ (5%)-2%
12. Gifts Rock■■■■ (4%)-9% (!!!)
13. Tooth and Nail■■■■ (4%)-6% (!!!)
14. Boros Deck Wins■■■■ (4%)-2%
15. Zoo■■ (2%)
16. Balancing Tings■■ (2%)-2%
17. Friggorid■■ (2%)+1%
18. Red Deck Wins■■ (2%)+2%
19. Flow Rock■■ (2%)+2%
20. Sligh■ (1%)+1%

Aggro Loam is still the most popular deck, but it has fallen back from a completely dominating position to “just” one of the top decks. Moreover, the above table illustrates the average popularity over the last 6 weeks, while Aggro Loam has seemed to fade out completely in the last weeks. I’ll tell you why this happened. A couple new decks with great matchups against Aggro Loam have emerged: Mono Green Aggro, Izzetron, and Blue-White Urzatron. I’ll cover all of them in detail today.

Mono Green Aggro – Extended

Download Arena Decklist

This deck aims to beat Aggro Loam by attacking its namesake card, Life from the Loam. Without Life from the Loam, Aggro Loam will have a hard time winning. Loaming Shaman and Scrabbling Claws empty the graveyard, and a Chalice of the Void set on two prevents Aggro Loam from casting Life from the Loam altogether (or Burning Wish, Wild Mongrel, or Werebear, for that matter). Mono Green Aggro plays almost no two-mana cards, which means that it is not hurt by a Chalice on two at all. The deck actually tries to skip the two-drop completely by using Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise and Chrome Mox. The deck aims to accelerate into fat green creatures quickly. Turn 1 Llanowar Elves/Birds of Paradise, turn 2 Troll Ascetic/Call of the Herd, turn 3 Phantom Centaur/Iwamori of the Open Fist is an awesome start, especially if you follow it up with equipment to beef up your guys. It’s a simple and straightforward plan, but early green monsters will put on a lot of pressure.

I got another decklist from jane_doe, and it looked similar to the above one. The main difference was that jane_doe played Scrabbling Claws sideboard, Boreal Druid instead of Chrome Mox, and extra Call of the Herds instead of Iwamori of the Open Fist. Also, she (?) played a couple Mouth of Ronom. Arguments can be made for all of these card choices, but the above decklist had the best results overall.

Izzetron – Extended

Download Arena Decklist

Remand
The Urza lands don’t get a lot of action in Standard anymore nowadays, but they have made their way into Extended. This deck was made by Tiago Chan and the people from clan Diplomats. It tries to get the complete Urzatron set in place quickly. Once it has managed to get one of each Urza land in play, the mana-heavy win conditions including Meloku, the Clouded Mirror, Triskelion, Sundering Titan, Mindslaver, and Burning Wish for Demonfire become much easier to cast.

The deck has ten counters that are mainly used to stall the opponent. Remand and Memory Lapse are not hard counters, but they buy precious time in which you can find the Urzatron. It might seem strange to play those counters as four-ofs and only two Counterspell, but this is done mainly due to mana requirements. With twelve colorless lands in your deck, is much easier than . Fact or Fiction and Thirst for Knowledge are your card drawers that get you closer to completing the Tron. Lastly, Fire // Ice and Repeal get rid of annoying creatures and permanents.

One of the reasons why this deck was successful is its good matchup against Aggro Loam. The counters can defend until the deck assembles its Tron, at which point Mindslaver can come over to steal the game – why don’t you target yourself 10 times with your Seismic Assault, thank you very much – or Burning Wish can get a lethal Demonfire. The deck also has a lot of game against the control decks, due to the counters and the powerful late game cards. Aggro decks are rougher, but after sideboard it’s very winnable. You have Flametongue Kavu and Pyroclasm against weenies, along with Shattering Spree against Affinity.

Blue-White Urzatron – Extended

Download Arena Decklist

This deck also builds on the Urza lands and is quite similar to the blue-red version. Both play Remand and Memory Lapse for counters, and both have Thirst for Knowledge and Fact or Fiction as their card drawers. Furthermore, both decks have Mindslaver, Signets, and Repeal. But that’s where the similarities stop. The blue-white version has Wrath of God instead of Fire // Ice as its creature control. Wrath of God can be a life saver, and it’s insanely powerful against creature strategies, although getting double white can sometimes be a problem. The win conditions are also vastly different between the two decks. White provides access to a couple good win conditions that have a lot of colorless mana in their cost and therefore work well with the Urza lands. I’m talking about Exalted Angel, Eternal Dragon, and most importantly Decree of Justice. The Decree is white’s equivalent of a Demonfire, and you can imagine that making 15 soldier tokens in the late game will win it all.

noobs_lord (Elisha Amir) gave me his updated version of the deck, which he made together with Gideon Bornstein. He moved Exalted Angel to the sideboard and instead plays Solemn Simulacrum and Telling Time. His sideboard is also vastly different from przemol’s original build; Meddling Mage, Sacred Ground, and Pulse of the Fields are replaced with Exalted Angel, Kataki, War's Wage, and Morningtide. I like those changes, and they seem good in theory, but I still decided to post przemol’s list because he has gotten into loads of Premier Event top 8’s and was partially responsible for popularizing the deck.

Blue-White Tron seems powerful, and it got a recent popularity surge. It has the same strengths as Izzetron and solves that deck’s vulnerability to aggro strategies with Wrath of God. I still think Aggro Loam is the best deck in the format, but it is hated out now, so perhaps you might be better off with another deck. Blue-White Tron would probably be my pick then.

Will Time Spiral Shake Up Extended?

Sudden_ShockShort answer: Yes.

Long answer: The split second cards will have a huge impact on Extended, Sudden Shock in particular. Sudden Shock kills Psychatog, Basking Rootwalla, Wild Mongrel, and Arcbound Ravager, and there is nothing your opponent can do about it. Psychatog players in particular will have to rethink their deck completely, because their main win condition now dies to an uncounterable two-mana spell that will be an automatic four-of in red decks. Krosan Grip will turn out to be an important sideboard card as well. It’s good against Scepter/Chant, because it cannot be countered and your opponent is unable to get a last use out of Isochron Scepter once Krosan Grip is on the stack. The same goes for Seismic Assault. Once Time Spiral becomes legal, you’d better pitch your hand full of lands before giving your opponent the chance to cast Krosan Grip. Split second completely changes the way you have to think about certain plays.

Tormods Crypt
Tormod’s Crypt will also have quite an impact. This card might go in the maindeck of Affinity decks because it’s a zero-mana artifact and could go in the sideboards of most decks for its intended use. Some people already play Morningtide in their sideboards, and Tormod’s Crypt is an obvious improvement. Decks that rely on their graveyard, such as Life from the Loam or Ichorid strategies, will have to rebuild their decks with Tormod’s Crypt in mind. An honorable mention goes out to Chromatic Star, which is strictly better than Chromatic Sphere for an Extended Affinity deck, because Arcbound Ravager can eat it for a +1/+1 counter, and you still get the card.

Conclusion

That’s it for now. I know I am lagging behind the format a bit because I only cover Extended once in a while, but I promise this will change once the Extended Qualifier season for Pro Tour Yokohama is about to start and information is in high demand.

I’d like to give special thanks to Jeroen Remie, Dave Parke, Dipterans, and Adept_Yawgmoth for their help and useful comments on this and the previous column. And many thanks to Offkorn, who tracked the results of the Extended Premier Events here. I used those, and they were very helpful to me. If you want to give online Extended a try, I can recommend Offkorn’s list of the average total card costs of the common decks, which you can see here.

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