While the appearance of Morningtide hasn't completely transformed the Extended landscape (yet), there have nevertheless been many interesting changes in the metagame, capped by the performance of a new look at an old favorite.
The week at a glance...
|Next Level Blue|
|B/R/G Crusher Aggro|
I don't know what is more surprising, that we finally have a week without Dredge taking an invitation or that it's like (Standard) Regionals 2004 all over again in some parts of the country. Affinity versus Goblin Bidding in the finals? In Extended? Don't blink or a Vernal Bloom might spontaneously appear at the table to your right... Or maybe Death Cl... Oh, bother. At least Skullclamp isn't legal this time.
Anyway, the Seattle PTQ finals saw Gavin Verhey's Fatal Frenzy Affinity deck bested by Travis Woo wielding the breakout deck of the week, B/R Goblins. Before we get to Woo let's take a look at the deck he had to beat to win the invitation.
2nd Place - Washington - Seattle - 2/16
In case you haven't seen this style of Affinity before, it is pretty similar to the basic, heavily linear Affinity builds from Mirrodin Block Constructed onwards. As always, Affinity is a fast aggressive deck with undercosted threats thanks to numerous artifacts. Arcbound Ravager is the ace, and Cranial Plating turns even the lowly Ornithopter into a front side like Blistering Firecat. The differentiating elements of this build are four Atogs main deck as well as the surprising, and surprisingly lethal, Fatal Frenzy. Everyone knows that just one or two errant hits from a Cranial Plating on anything can prove deadly when facing Affinity... Fatal Frenzy just gives the deck more breakout power with the flyers and a very dangerous "B" game with the Atog. Letting the Atog hit you -- especially when you are a creature deck -- is basically suicide if the Affinity player has Fatal Frenzy in hand. Two lands, a Springleaf Drum, and an Ornithopter can easily Voltron for lethal given today's mana bases.
1st Place - Washington - Seattle - 2/16
The actual big winner, though, and the recipient for most Blue Envelopes on the week, was Woo's B/R Goblins deck. Lorwyn and Morningtide seem to have settled the Goblins splash color on black for now with Auntie's Hovel and the prowl mechanic adding value to the team. Auntie's Hovel is just another dual land, but it's a fine one that can help shoulder the somewhat prohibitive BB of Patriarch's Bidding. Patriarch's Bidding gives Goblins both a "critical mass" combo kill with Skirk Prospector, Siege-Gang Commander, and Goblin Sharpshooter + Goblin Warchief (all laced together with Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader, of course), but maybe more simply, it just gives the deck a nice (and by "nice" I mean "devastating") topdeck out of Wrath of God.
While it's not unusual by any means, don't miss Woo's Mogg Fanatics. Along with Skirk Prospector, Mogg Fanatic is a worthwhile puzzle piece in this deck... That also helps to fight Dredge by passively attacking Bridge from Below; Mogg Fanatic can also knock a Narcomoeba out of the sky, keeping Dredge under the critical three creatures necessary to play Dread Return.
Reasonably fresh off his Top 8 at the end of the Time Spiral Block GP season, onetime Junior Super Series standout Brett Blackman took the Philadelphia area PTQ with what has been the standout deck of the Gray Matter / Northeast area this season, Doran, making for at least the third PTQ win by the deck in that region... and he won a mirror in the finals.
1st Place - Pennsylvania - Philadelphia - 2/16
Nothing much to see here from Brett's deck... It was a fairly straightforward redux of the season's breakout upgrade. Not surprisingly, some other decks around North America added Murmuring Bosk from Morningtide, a perfect tool given the deck's sometimes daunting colored-mana requirements. Check out Cole Abernathy's take on the deck:
5th Place - Washington - Seattle - 2/16
There is the brand spanking new Bosk! A Forest, Murmuring Bosk fits perfectly with Windswept Heath... or Treefolk Harbinger!Treefolk Harbinger does double, maybe triple, duty in this deck. Not only is it a fine first turn play to set up your mana (and block that early Kird Ape), but it can set up Doran with greater regularity; once the namesake is online, Treefolk Harbinger even plays 3/3!
1st Place - Texas - Lubbock - 2/16
Is it possible? A PTQ winning green creature deck that doesn't play Tarmogoyf? Scott Young's Beasts Rock deck had plenty of fat creatures, but he needed to choose Ravenous Baloths and Spiritmongers to fit into his Beasts strategy with Contested Cliffs.
It might be borderline heretical to say this, but in my Rock-on-Rock testing, Tarmogoyf has underperformed when at least one of the participants had Pernicious Deed in his deck. At some point, all your 6/7 Tarmogoyfs will die and my one, lonely, 4/4 Raveous Baloth will live to clean up the game. There are times -- not many I'll grant you -- where Tarmogoyf's bargain mana cost can be a bit of a drawback.
3rd Place - Utah - Salt Lake City - 2/16
One of the genuinely new decks to come out of Morningtide is the Through the Breach / Reveillark combo deck. If you haven't seen this deck in action, it is pretty close to Legacy Hulk Flash in execution, if not speed and versatility at this stage.
Basically the goal is to get one of your Protean Hulks into the graveyard; of course you are loaded with Living Wishes and Summoner's Pacts to artificially increase the number Protean Hulks past four (in fact, in order to get "four more" you only play three main). The simplest way to get your Protean Hulk where you want it is to play Through the Breach on the second or third turn via Seething Song and other accelerators. When the trigger on Through the Breach occurs, your Protean Hulk will go to the graveyard, and then the Hulk's trigger follows suit and the fun begins.
Protean Hulk goes to the graveyard and finds six mana worth of creatures; the scripted play is Body Double and Carrion Feeder. Body Double comes into play copying Protean Hulk; therefore when you sacrifice Body Double to Carrion Feeder, it, too, gets a trigger for six mana... Conveniently Reveillark and Mogg Fanatic add up to exactly six.
At this point your opponent is basically dead, regardless of his life total (unless he can somehow break up the combo, of course). Throw Mogg Fanatic at the enemy; he takes one. Sacrifice Reveillark to Carrion Feeder; you get to return a pair of small creatures to play thanks to that great white hope... Body Double and Mogg Fanatic are excellent candidates. You can do this forever! Note that this combination is very difficult to break up with creature removal. Sittner played two or more copies of every relevant combo piece. That way, even if his opponent had creature removal, he could double up a Protean Hulk and find the relevant parts again in the middle of a combo, as if he were starting it fresh.
Extended is a format full of unfair and sometimes un-fun combo decks. How does the Reveillark deck stack up? In terms of speed, the deck can theoretically win on the first turn (Gemstone Mine, Simian Spirit Guide, Simian Spirit Guide, Seething Song, Through the Breach, Protean Hulk)... and that hand is actually one of the more likely first turn kills in Extended. Don't count on it, of course. The major criticism against the Hulk strategy is that, despite its potential for a first turn kill, it is functionally slower than Dredge on average, yet has "all of Dredge's weaknesses" specifically its reliance on the graveyard and vulnerability to cards like Leyline of the Void. On balance, this deck also has most if not all of the shortcomings of Enduring Ideal, boasting a mana base only a mother (or possibly Brian Kibler) could love; commonly played permanents like Pithing Needle will also slow it down considerably.
That said, this deck is exciting, powerful, and brand spanking new!
3rd Place - Indiana - Indianapolis - 2/16
Mono-Red Burn has been a staple of the "metagame" (if you can call it that) from the very beginning of Magic tournaments. This version is the latest incarnation, combining numerous cards that deal three points of damage or more. Think about it like this: The Philosophy of Fire says that cards are worth about two life, so you need ten cards to win; in this version of Red, where nearly everything does three, the deck needs only seven spells to cash in the "W."
One oldie but goodie that has made the transition into the Extended burn deck is Spark Elemental. This card consistently gets in for his money, early... Card advantage? This deck doesn't concern itself overmuch. Because it is going to the graveyard anyway, no one wants to trade with Spark Elemental! From the other side, a new card that is costed to impress is Shard Volley. The worst Lightning Bolt ever? Okay, fine, it's "bad." Take three.
Like the week's breakout archetype, Goblins, the burn deck plays a full set of Mogg Fanatics. In addition to being one of the best beatdown creatures ever for one mana, Mogg Fanatic helps the deck race against Dredge; as you know, Dredge without Leyline of the Void in play has to protect Bridge from Below when playing against a deck like this one, or any deck with Mogg Fanatic.
I don't know if it is the right deck to play this weekend, but my pick for the coolest deck is Matt Laurents's 2d place deck from LA, CA.
2nd Place - California - LA area - 2/16
Trinket Mage searching up Shuriken for Ninja of the Deep Hours and then picking Trinket Mage back up?
I can't imagine anything cooler, either.