Quiet Speculation: The Tumultuous Future of Extended

I’ve been looking over the deck lists from the Pro Tour in Amsterdam last weekend, and I’m hoping I can find some trends that’ll take us into the new Extended format. We’re losing Time Spiral Block along with Tenth Edition, so we must first figure out what decks are in the format and what decks lose too much of their core to remain in their present form. We’re doing something similar for Standard right now too, but that’s another topic. I took the time to loosely spreadsheet out the decks from the “Top Extended Decks” listing on the Event Coverage site. Here’s what I got, sorted by most-played archetype.

Show Archetype List »

Archetype

Qty

Pyromancer Combo

12

15.00%

Scapeshift

11

13.75%

WW

10

12.50%

Doran

9

11.25%

AdNauseam

5

6.25%

Jund

4

5.00%

UWx AggroControl

3

Faeries

3

Teachings

3

RDW

3

Combo Elves

2

Balance Cascade

2

Dredge

2

Summoning Trap

2

5c control

2

Goblins

2

U/R Punishing Fire

1

Hivepact

1

Merfolk

1

RG Aggro

1

Landkill

1

We must first figure out what decks lose too much to continue. At 15% of the field, though without a Top 8 appearance, Pyromancer Ascension looks primed to be a contender in Extended after Scars. It’s clear that the eight copies of Ponder, facilitated by Preordain, are the keys to the deck. The use of Punishing Fire Combo and Tarmogoyf is just a concesstion to be able to compete with the other decks in the format that use those same three cards. Every deck is losing this engine, so it’s not going to factor much into the decision. If anything, it’ll mean fewer maindeck Kor Firewalkers!

Pyromancer Ascension could even remain viable in Standard, though the loss of Ponder and Time Warp surely hurt. The majority of the deck remains intact, and Scars of Mirrodin could easily provide the deck the help it’ll need. Do not rule this deck out in rotation.

The other combo deck that didn’t place in the Top 8, Scapeshift, is a major player in the format. Once I realized that Scapeshift was in Morningtide (not Future Sight as I had somehow convinced myself), I knew that Scapeshift is basically everything good about Standard Titan Ramp without Primeval Titan. It’s possible we see the big guy in the Scapeshift deck before long, but the combo will be intact once Time Spiral rotates and that’s what matters. Decks may shift to a longer game plan, but the card Scapeshift will continue to be very relevant.

White Weenie is alive and well, and we can’t really expect anything less in a format with Windbrisk Heights and Spectral Procession. The loss of Flagstones of Trokair just brings Steppe Lynx back to earth, as Flagstones led to some really abusive draws. You can still just kill them with a 4/5 or bigger due to fetch lands, so the deck will be just fine. Sideboard Mana Tithes will have to be replaced as well, but the deck will survive the rotation mostly intact.

The Doran, the Siege Tower decks also lose almost nothing. Slaughter Pact may have put the “Laugh” in “Slaughter”, but it’s nothing the deck can’t do without. Since every deck is losing Tarmogoyf, we won’t really count it, though it means a lot to this deck to have a giant in play as a 2-drop. I’d consider Lotus Cobra in his stead, which could even speed the deck up slightly.

Jund decks were also popular, but not as dominant as they could have been. This may be due to the raw power of the Doran Aggro decks, and the mana base may even exist to make a hybrid of the two. Fetching Murmuring Bosk is insane. Cascading into Doran is equally so.

The Ad Nauseam decks lose Angels Grace, which was a key in their deck, so it won’t be a factor. That’s not to say that Ad Nauseam itself won’t be, but the current incarnation won’t work and would need a total overhaul. The decks that abuse Cascade and Suspend are likewise gone, as are those that rely on the “fair” suspend spells.

The metagame looks well-defined, but Scars of Mirrodin could bring any number of complications. As it stands, Pyromancer Ascension seems like it has the tools to be a top contender despite getting almost no press because of the Top 8′s conspicuous lack of the card. Gaining Cryptic Command does insane things for the deck, as you can draw an absurd amount of cards while still controlling the pace of the game. I have long championed Pyromancer Ascension as one of the most breakable cards in Zendikar Block, and I’m glad to see the Pro Tour proving me somewhat correct. While the deck will need a reevaluation in Standard, it loses precious little in Extended and is my vote for the top Combo deck of the new format.

Personally, I like the Doran deck the most. It loses almost nothing, so it should be a straightforward port between formats. Maelstrom Pulse is the best answer to everything since Vindicate, and its creatures are the best in the format. The pressure it can put on, even without Tarmogoyf, is second to none, and slower, hybrid 4-color builds could even come together with Reflecting Pool. It’s entirely possible that splashing for Bloodbraid Elf is extraneous or inefficient, but it’s worth a try.

It’s the Cards that Matter

Reflecting Pool will be a key player in the format once again. The versatility of Vivid Pool mana bases is undeniable. Reflecting Pool alone will help Aggro decks play the most efficient creatures possible, while adding Vivid Creek and company will help the slower decks play the best possible answers in all colors.

Expect Maelstrom Pulse to be a very important card too. There’s no real reason for Cruel Control decks not to bum a free green mana off a Vivid Marsh to cast the best removal spell in the format. This card answers almost every problem a deck can have, save Valakut, but Tectonic Edge should make up for that. There’s even Spreading Seas for you value-conscious Blue mages.

Noble Hierarch was shockingly absent from these deck lists, so I have to wonder where all-in decks like Mythic will stand when the dust clears. Knight of the Reliquary, Conflux’s other good creature, is everywhere, and will likely be a format staple until he’s bumped out by the passage of time. There’s just no arguing with a creature that’s likely to be a 3 mana 4/4 that ramps and fixes mana. He’s just that good.

Elves made a cursory showing, but its possible that we see a hybrid of the Combo Elf decks of old with a more aggressive “big guy” Elves twist due to the spoiled elves in Scars of Mirrodin. SoM has 4/4s for 1G and 8/8 tramplers for 2GG? Sign me up. The key will be finding the right mix of artifacts to “set off” your metallurgical marauders, but I suspect Mox Opal will have a significant hand in this deck’s development.

Proliferate looks flithy good, but only time will tell if it’s playable outside Limited. The 2U cantrip that proliferates seemslike a natural consideration for Pyromancer Ascension decks, and can also help the Steel Overseer decks pump their army and dig. Casting this with an Everflowing Chalice in place is rumored to feel really, really great.

I’m withholding judgment on the Planeswalkers for now, though I think Elspeth is probably filthy beyond belief. I’d consider keeping an eye on other token generators like Spectral Procession to get a good idea of how scary she can get. Frustratingly, Conquerors Pledge is in the same spot on the mana curve, but with perhaps an earlier token generator, this will not be an issue. I’d have a few Pledges put away just in case.

Conspicuously absent are any equipment I’d like to fish up with Stoneforge Mystic. I have faith that the card will find a home, and most likely in a Boros deck of sorts. If you bought in already, keep the faith. There’s got to be a good equipment coming. I’d like to see something extremely cheap (Bone Saw cheap) to make Kor Duelist and Goblin Gaveleer look good. I’m seeing a very powerful trend emerge here, so cheap equipment is to be watched like a hawk. On a final note, Blade of the Bloodchief is better than you think.

That’s all I have on Scars of Mirrodin and the wake of the Pro Tour right now, but as the set gets spoiled, I’ll surely think of new things that get my speculative mind going.

 
  1. The new lord, Grand Architect, has some very interesting Extended combo possibilities

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