would like to start this week by addressing the "30 ticket" issue. Oftentimes, readers speculate that some of my decks cost more than 30 tickets on Magic Online. By my own admission, this is true. My decks may sometimes cost 50 tickets or so; other times they may cost 15 tickets. I don't think it's fair to give a strict definition to a broad word like "budget." I want to assure you, though, that if I can build a competitive and fun deck that cost more than 30 tickets but is still reasonably priced in relation to its metagame, I won't hesitate to write about it if I feel it stands up to the dominant decks of a metagame. So, without further ado, my definition of budget:
Suitable for one on a budget; inexpensive
(Courtesy of Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
I'm going to take a break from my budget shard series to talk about Extended. About a month ago, my friends and I decided to put a lot of work into designing a powerful deck that could beat Zoo, Affinity, and Storm combo. We were bouncing ideas off each other, and eventually we decided that we could probably update the Egg deck played by Pierre Canali and friends at Worlds 2006. The new deck had to be a lot different. Cunning Wish isn't legal anymore, and all the Eggs (such as Darkwater Egg) rotated out with the rest of Odyssey block. Here's Pierre's list for reference.
Pierre Canali's Sunny Side Up
Extended, Worlds 2006
We tinkered around with lists similar to the older version, but it became clear that the new deck would have to be a lot different. We were essentially building an entirely new deck that happened to win the same way. We bounced a bunch of lists off each other and at a point we were ready to throw the deck away. Then it hit us, we don't need to play this many land. We initially played twenty lands. Then we cut it down to eighteen lands and it got a bit better. Eventually, we worked it down to 15 lands, and the list looked like this. Gabe Carleton-Barnes is largely responsible for making the deck as good as it was.
Ednae (Eggs - Disclaimer: No actual Eggs)
Extended, Pro Tour-Berlin 2008
The deck does very well against decks without counterspells. It wins on turn three or four, if you do the math it wins on turn three about 40% of the time and turn four about 55%. Yes, 5% of the time you have to win later than turn four. My sideboard included a host of expensive cards like Pact of Negation and Thoughtseize, but those are really only valuable against matchups that are very difficult anyway.
Here's how the deck works. You play your Ponder / Serum Visions to set up your hand and play a few artifacts to set up the combo. If you had a Lotus Bloom in your opening hand and can afford to wait until turn four, then wait for the Bloom. If you want to go off on turn three you need a Reshape, or a Spoils of the Vault to go get a Reshape. Reshape an artifact to go get a Lotus Bloom. Sacrifice artifacts one by one to draw cards and once you just have three mana left, play Second Sunrise and return everything to play. You continue going through your deck with cards like Spoils of the Vault, occasionally playing another Second Sunrise to keep going, until you draw your entire library. Once you have no remaining deck, you can start netting mana by sacrificing Lotus Blooms and using Ghost Quarter on your own lands (because Ghost Quarter and the land you destroy both come back into play untapped after Second Sunrise). You then use Conjurer's Bauble to put Second Sunrise on the bottom of your deck and draw it. You're now ready to start using Pyrite Spellbomb to deal 2 damage at a time to your opponent. You can keep returning the Pyrite Spellbomb with your Second Sunrise and deal infinite damage. You can also use your Sunbeam Spellbomb to gain infinite life. If your opponent has a response like Gilded Light or Angel's Grace, you can just deal them infinite damage on their upkeep; if they respond with another answer, you can just respond to that answer and deal them infinite damage again. If something really rough, like Runed Halo, turns off your Pyrite Spellbomb you can just gain infinite life with Sunbeam Spellbomb and use Reclaim to prevent yourself from being decked, your opponent will run out of cards first and will be forced to concede.
The deck is extraordinarily hard to play and I suggest playing at least thirty solitaire games with it before you try to play real games with it. I've probably played about five hundred matches with the deck. Here are some tips when going off that will help prevent you from fizzling:
When going off, you need to be conservative with your mana. If you have four remaining mana left in your pool (You need to save three for the Second Sunrise), then it is incorrect to play Ponder or Serum Visions before your Second Sunrise. If you have five or more mana left in your pool, then it is correct to play Ponder or Serum Visions because you may hit a Chromatic Star, Chromatic Sphere, or Conjurer's Bauble that will end up netting you a ton of cards.
Don't play a land the turn you plan to go off unless it is a Ghost Quarter. You will draw a lot of cards in the process of going off, but the ability to thin your deck and net an additional mana every time you play Second Sunrise is extremely powerful. It's important to realize that every land you draw is essentially a dead card when going off. Ghost Quarter helps you make sure that you draw less land when going off.
You need to be careful with your choice of what to put on bottom with Conjurer's Bauble. If you have a single Second Sunrise in your graveyard you should probably put a Ponder or Spoils of the Vault on the bottom. If you already have two Lotus Blooms looping then it's fine to bottom the Ponder, but if your struggling to empty your hand of artifacts then it's probably correct to put an Spoils of the Vault on the bottom. In some situations it's correct to put Reshape on the bottom; this usually happens when you have a single Ghost Quarter in play (your land for the turn) and just one Lotus Bloom looping. Once you have more than one Second Sunrise (or another copy in your hand) you can use Conjurer's Bauble on your Second Sunrise. If you use a Reclaim on a Second Sunrise then you want to follow it up with a Conjurer's Bauble activation putting the Reclaim on the bottom and the Second Sunrise in your hand.
Use your Conjurer's Bauble first and then use your Ghost Quarter to shuffle the desired card(s) back into your library. It's important to use your Ghost Quarter before you start drawing cards off your Pyrite Spellbomb, Sunbeam Spellbomb, Chromatic Star, Chromatic Sphere, Ponder, Serum Visions, Manamorphose, and Spoils of the Vault. The only way you can fizzle is by hitting a long string of land in the process of going off. You want to thin this land out of your deck before you start drawing a lot of cards.
I decided that I would play this deck at Pro Tour–Berlin. I wanted to give some credit to my budget decks and I want people to know that I believe that my budget decks can be competitive on the highest level, while being wacky and fun at the same time. I sleeved up the deck last Thursday night and hopped in bed for a sleepless night.
I rolled out of bed at 6 a.m. and took a shower. I got dressed and took a book to the nearby river. I sat on the bridge and read a few chapters of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I walked over to the site just before the player meeting.
The judges collected our decklists and posted the first rounds pairings. Round 1: Table 159 vs. Uri Peleg.
Uri Peleg, the reigning World Champion. This is the first time I met Uri. This man is probably the most soft-spoken, humble, grateful, and profoundly deserving World Champion the game has ever seen. Like me, Uri had spent the week prior sight-seeing in and around Berlin. While the judges sorted things out, we talked about the dark history of the city. I had just been up to Sachenhausen, a concentration camp, the day before. He told me about camps he went to in Poland with his school when he was growing up. I had family that was tortured in Birkenau during 1943. We talked about the Nazis' affect on our families' paths. We had a really moving conversation, and there was a kind of understanding that we both wanted the other to do well in the tournament.
Before presenting his deck to me he said, with a meek smile, "It's not important to me that I do well here. I've already won something; that's enough for me."
I envy Uri's gratefulness.
Round 1 vs. Uri Peleg
Game 1: I won the play, and Uri mulliganed down to five cards. I had a Reshape in my hand and I won on turn three.
I sided in some discard in case he had Extirpate.
Game 2: He mulliganed to six cards. I mulliganed down to five this time around. I got very lucky with my draws and was able to put together a win on turn four. Uri missed his fourth land drop and showed me a Cranial Extraction after the game.
Round 2 vs. Romain Fenaux-briot
Game 1: I won the play and kept my opener. I had two Lotus Blooms in my hand, and I suspended both. He played an Island and passed. I just played some artifacts each turn and passed. On my fourth turn, he let both Lotus Blooms come into play. He had three mana untapped, so I figured I should play through Spell Snare and a Remand or Mana Leak. I decided to always keep an additional three mana in my pool, and I had that luxury considering the pair of Lotus Bloom. I sacrificed my first Lotus Bloom for three blue mana and played a Reshape for one to dodge Spell Snare. I fetched another Lotus Bloom. I then proceded to play all my card draw effects off artifacts. After all was said and done I had one blue mana, one green mana, and four white mana in my pool. I played a Second Sunrise, and my opponent looked at my extra mana and figured I would fall for it eventually. He let the Sunrise resolve and I now had access to about fourteen mana and another eight cards. He never scooped and made me deal him all 20 with the Pyrite Spellbomb.
Games 2 and 3 weren't very exciting. Romain had Annul out of the sideboard and just never tapped any mana. I never got a chance to go off in either of these games. Eventually I died to some Spire Golems.
Round 3 vs. Desmond Ng
Desmond was an awesome guy. He had a good laugh and was clearly having a really good time.
Game 1: I had the play and he played a Tarmogoyf on his second turn. I decided to use the opportunity of him being tapped out to try to go off on turn three. Considering the board state I probably had a 30% chance of fizzling. I'd rather have a 70% chance of winning than have to fight through counterspells, though, so I decided I had to go for it. I succeeded, and after seeing me go through the motions a few times, Desmond asked how I won. I explained the loop and he said, "Sounds awesome. You win. Next game."
Game 2: I mulliganed to five on the draw and never really got much going. Desmond's turn-two Tarmogoyf went all the way and he never really gave me any room to go off through any counters.
Game 3: I suspended a pair of Lotus Blooms on my first turn and played some artifacts and Ponder while I waited for the time counters to come off. Desmond played his third land, a tapped Breeding Pool, and passed as my Lotus Blooms were coming in. He let them both resolve and played a Hurkyl's Recall. I decided to go off and I sacrificed both Blooms and all my other artifacts. I used one mana for Spoils of the Vault naming Second Sunrise. I lost 18 life to the Spoils of the Vault. Then I used another three mana to play the Second Sunrise. I used one last mana to Reclaim my Second Sunrise. I burned down to 1 life and drew my card for my turn: Second Sunrise. I went off easily from here.
Round 4 vs. Tomohiro Aridome
Some crazy deck I've never seen before with a lot of counterspells.
There's not much to say about this round. Game 1 he never tapped any mana on his own turn, and he eventually killed me with his Vendilion Clique. In Game 2 I had a very good draw, and I tried to go off on turn four with a hand that could play through two counterspells. He had three Annul in his hand, and I was out for the count.
Round 5 vs. Makihito Mihara
Game 1: Another world champion! Mihara is a very methodical player, and I respect how consistently well he plays. He won the play, and he was setting up to go off on turn four. I went off on turn three and we went on to Game 2.
Game 2: Mihara comboed me out on turn two. Not much I could do about that.
Game 3: I went off on turn three again. He showed me that he would have gone off the next turn. Not a particularly exciting match; my deck delivered while his faltered a bit in Game 1.
Round 6 vs. Sergey Egorov
Game 1: Sergey didn't speak much English. He seemed like a very nice fellow, and he played very well. He had the play and didn't give me any breathing room in the first game, I died to a Tarmogoyf after trying to go off and being met with four counterspells.
Game 2: Again, he never really gave me a chance to go off without having to jump through at least three hoops. His Tarmogoyf got there again.
Round 7 vs. Fabien Pagnard
I probably could have won the second game of this match, but I was pretty rattled. I had played against five counterspell-heavy decks in a field where they only made up about 10% of the decks. I blame myself for this loss, and I should have played a lot tighter.
Round 8: Jan De Coster
Game 1: Jan seemed to be pretty upset about his showing, and I'm not sure if his heart was really into winning this one. He tried to go off on turn two but fizzled, and I won on the following turn.
Game 2: Jan didn't do much this game, having switched to the beatdown plan. I won on turn four through little disruption.
Jan was an awesome guy and I could tell he knew what he was doing. Sometimes players get a bit dejected when they play a deck they know is powerful and they don't do as well as they might have hoped.
That was my experience at Pro Tour–Berlin. I loved my deck and thought it was a blast to play. I met a lot of really interesting people that made me realize just how great this game really is. I was pretty upset that I had to play against five blue decks the first day of the Pro Tour, but sometimes that's just how the cookie crumbles. If you're looking to play a deck that's a lot of fun and extremely powerful against non-control decks, I strongly suggest you take this one for a spin.