How Not to Build an Extended Deck

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Since we're into Extended season now I thought I should take a stab at the format. I wish I could be like Travis Woo and feed you 29 decks, but I haven't had that kind of time. I'm impressed, Travis. I loved that article.

I did have this one great idea for an Extended deck... well just let me show you:

Yes, that works. You have to be fast about it, though. Emrakul's shuffling ability is unusually worded as a trigger and not a replacement. Unlike Keeper of Progenitus, who has an "if & instead" wording, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn has a "when" wording. This gives you a window to act, targeting it with the Instant-speed reanimator spell Makeshift Mannequin while the shuffling ability is still on the stack.

Hilarious, right?

To build a deck around this, what I really needed, was a way to put an Emrakul into my graveyard while I have 3B and Makeshift Mannequin available. The first cards I thought of were Merfolk Looter and Fauna Shaman. I threw together the following deck:

[deckbox did="a43" size="small" width="567"]

The lands are only approximately correct here. In fact, often when I first test a deck (in paper) I just play whatever lands are in the sleeves and pretend my mana always works out. If the deck fails with perfect mana, it's not going to get better when you tune the manabase, and you can save a lot of work by moving on to the next configuration or next deck before ever even considering your lands. Worldwake's creature lands make this a little more complex, but in decks that would have those I put them in properly and just make pretend with the rest of the land.

This deck, by the way, was awful. Looters seem too slow and weak for the fast and aggressive format that is our present Extended. Too many slots are devoted to finding the combo, and while it's pretty much an instant win, I never got to do it. It's possible that a more pure Control shell (without Green) could defend you long enough to assemble the combo, but I haven't had time to try it.

While poking around in Green I saw another card that made an appearance a few years ago:

So I threw together this deck:

[deckbox did="a44" size="small" width="567"]

I wouldn't have brought it up except that it was so much better than my first deck. It wasn't spectacular, but it was like 30% against Faeries, Tempered Steel, and Jund. I consider that a pretty good start considering it's untuned. Anytime the opponent gave an inch I was able to take a mile by dramatically throwing down a Terastodon and wiping out their mana.

I was trying to find a better version when I felt I realized why these decks weren't working. This style of deck simply isn't allowed by the cards in Extended. What do I mean?

This card is the ultimate Combo breaker. Unlike Duress and Inquisition of Kozilek, this card has almost no restriction on what it can take, and the overabundance of them in decks both in the present Extended (and Standard when they were legal) is a testament to its power. (The nickname "Cashseize" also tells you a lot in how many players thought you had to have four to be competitive.) I lost many games with both of the above decks to an early Thoughtseize. But lots of other decks survived in Standard against it. This is where I realized the real problem - the kind of deck I was trying to make has cards that are neither redundant, nor particularly versatile, and of course, not very fast. Consider the cards in a Red deck such as this beauty:

[deckbox did="a45" size="small" width="567"]

What do all these cards do? The same thing. What happens when you lose one to a Thoughtseize? Not much. Your opponent saves 1 damage if they take a Lightning Bolt, maybe 6 damage if they go first and take a Goblin Guide. You'd have a hard time not laughing in their face if they took a Hellspark Elemental.

You can totally play this deck without embarassment, by the way. I love the Bloodbraid Elfs, but please note that I have not spent enough time testing to know for sure if they are really better than Demigod of Revenge. I think they are, because they are a turn faster and net you a free card, but someone should break out the spreadsheet and play 100 games each way. Please post the results in a comment for me, okay?

Oh also this Sideboard is not quite realistic. I'm strongly considering moving Volcanic Fallout to the main, and I put in Relic of Progenitus here just to remind you all that it exists. If you're worried Ooze and Aahs is going to make a big showing in your next PTQ, just bring some Relics along to turn off most of their plans. Also very good against Knight of the Reliquary, and might be useful against Pyromancer's Ascension (but only if you drop it on turn 1). I don't know if Brittle Effigy helps against Kor Firewalkers (it might be far too slow). There are a ton of other cards you might put into this deck's Sideboard, including but not limited to:

Returning to my title, how not to build a deck for Extended: You should aim for a deck with redundancy, cards that are individually versatile and powerful, and avoid slower combos that consist of cards that don't stand on their own. The format is fast, and deckbuilding for a fast Constructed format means you have to be sure every card is carrying its weight. Most of your cards have to cost less than 4 mana, and also have a significant effect on the board state. The faster the format gets, the stronger cards like Disfigure and Inquisition of Kozilek become. Control decks are running 3-mana sweepers like Volcanic Fallout, and the two prominent Combo decks (Elves and Ooze) can kill you on turn 4. The plan you start with when conceiving of your deck has to be able to stand up to this speed. The cards you choose to execute your plan have to function more independently or interact well with your opponent more than they would need to in a slower format. Hopefully I'll get better at is as the season continues.

If you have interest in game design topics, be sure to check out my blog Design-side Out, and feel free to follow me on twitter (@GregoryMarques).

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “How Not to Build an Extended Deck

  1. To build a deck around this, what I really needed, was a way to put an Emrakul into my graveyard while I have 3B and Makeshift Mannequin available. The first cards I thought of were Merfolk Looter and Fauna Shaman. I threw together the following deck:

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