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Jon Finkel's take on Extended, the best, the rest, and the best of the rest.

Morningtide Dawns on Extended

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After a week's hiatus for the Morningtide Release tournaments, we are back to Extended PTQ action. Welcome! Here are the winners... and some other decks for five PTQs around North America:


Dredge
Next Level Blue
Enduring Ideal
RDW
Junk
Affinity
Death Cloud
Gaea's Might Get There
Goblins
Big Black
Doran
Heartbeat
Spire Blue
TEPS

For some unknown reason multiple tournament organizers had deck submission issues, so most of the week's Top 8s were incomplete when I got them, which accounts for the strange ratio of blue to white this week. In this article I'll cover the decks I had in time for publication, but you can see all of the decks now in by clicking here.

As for the winners, Dredge, Next Level Blue, and RDW -- all blue envelope takers this season -- followed up with additional wins. The most recent paragons:

Corey Baumeister

1st Place - Manitoba - Winnipeg - 2/9


We've gone over Dredge decks basically every week so I won't bore you with the same details again. Numbers to note are Baumeister's two Tolarian Winds (capable of a large graveyard dump on the second turn) and Dread Return (three). A card that bears mentioning out of the sideboard is Crippling Fatigue. This card is readily available via the Dredge mechanic itself (putting many cards in the graveyard and accidentally hitting Crippling Fatigue). With that card down, Baumeister's Dredge deck can easily handle a Gaddock Teeg that might be pinning his Dread Returns. The back side of Crippling Fatigue is free, and out of the graveyard spells free card advantage.

Michael Fitza

1st Place - Wisconsin - Madison - 2/9


The unique elements out of this deck haven't been seen since "Frog in a Blender" maybe six years ago. Reckless Charge replaces Blistering Firecat for quite the surprise punch. Blistering Firecat can be difficult to play around but at least you know when it's coming. Reckless Charge, though... The front side is so much more than three damage. No one that I know of is playing around this card so it should spell free Tarmogoyf damage on the front side and some important top deck supplementation later in the game. Reckless Charge's buddy here is Tarmogoyf proxy Quirion Dryad, doing its best Miracle Grow impression. Quirion Dryad will acquire +1/+1 counters (see I'm on theme!) via anything but Tarmogoyf and Quirion Dryad itself. Combined with Reckless Charge and a fair amount of burn, this should make for an overall faster RDW clock.



Marshall Ashford

1st Place - Georgia - Atlanta - 2/9


The Morningtide update is... Offalsnout! 2B for a 2/2 Flasher isn't actually a bad deal... It's just not something we are used to seeing, especially for a deck loaded up with Trinket Mages and Tarmogoyfs. That Flash ability comes in handy with Evoke, though, doesn't it? Evoke allowed Ashford to "cycle" Offalsnout directly into the graveyard to set up its triggered ability (probably targeting Dread Return or a Dread Return target); subtly the fact that a creature is going to the graveyard tap dances all over Bridge from Below in the process. Offalsnout is just a great anti-Dredge card due to its speed and "splash damage" of simultaneously dealing with Bridge from Below. I expect to see more of this card as the season progresses.

... Don't forget that you might actually kill someone with your almost efficient 2/2 Flasher!

Straight from the finals of PT Valencia, it's Enduring Ideal!



Hans Mahler

1st Place - Maryland - Baltimore area - 2/9


Mahler dealt his Ideal deck straight: No Insidious Dreams / Draco combination, not fancy mirror sideboard. The strategy with Ideal is fairly simple: It's a "one card combo" deck. You accelerate to Enduring Ideal with Lotus Bloom, Pentad Prism, and so on, then presumably win the game with your Epic copy per turn.

Typically the first enchantment to find is Dovescape, either that or Solitary Confinement or Form of the Dragon (if you are under pressure); then you get Dovescape to prevent the opponent from being able to deal with your enchantments. Honden of Seeing Winds keeps Solitary Confinement going; Boseiju forces out Enduring Ideal (but not the copies!) against Next Level Blue; Form of the Dragon typically closes in five turns or fewer. Boil out of the sideboard seems like a nice way to ruin a Blue mage's day, what with Boseiju already in the mix.

A card you might not have thought of in Enduring Ideal is Fire // Ice. This one is as flexible as ever... the main point of it here is killing Gaddock Teeg or some similar 2/2 Ideal hater (like Ronom Unicorn) to make going off that much easier... or even possible.

And now for something completely different...

Alex Buehrle

1st Place - Colorado - Denver - 2/9


We've seen Doran decks from the first and pre-first PTQs of the season... Alex Buehrle played no such 0/5 Treefolk, instead building from an older PT Junk model. With its Toll Ascetics and potential Silver Knight + Armadillo Cloak setups, this deck actually seems more like Haterator that can kill a creature. Three main deck copies of Kataki, War's Wage? That's about as hateful as you can get.

Though Buehrle didn't play it, one card you might want to consider for this kind of a deck is Thrill of the Hunt. Buehrle bested Enduring Ideal in the Denver finals, and even decks that don't have Fire // Ice can Wish for Pyroclasm. Thrill of the Hunt can protect your Gaddock Teeg from most Red removal spells, or Dredge's Crippling Fatigue for that matter... and twice.

And now for some of "the rest" ...

Mike Arenson

4th Place - Manitoba - Winnipeg - 2/9


Mike Arenson's Spire Blue deck is slightly off-model, mixing Next Level Blue-esqe color splashes (but not the traditional Tarmogoyf!) into the usually straight blue deck. The interesting thing to me is that Meekstone singleton for the Trinket Mage. Meekstone is a card that was once very popular but I think most people forgot was in the Extended environment at all. It seems like an interesting lockdown for common threats like Tarmogoyf and a fine pair to Vedalken Shackles that doesn't affect the Spire Blue side at all.


Aside starring Jon Finkel...

Finkel facing off against Hernandez at US Nationals '00
The last time I saw a Meekstone in a competitive deck, it was actually in Jon Finkel's Top 8 match against Frank Hernandez at the 2000 US National Championship. The battle featured Napster (Jon) versus StOmPy (Hernandez), a matchup that greatly favored Finkel due to his "nine main deck Perishes" as Hernandez would later describe the four Vampiric Tutors, four Yawgmoth's Wills, and onePerish in Finkel's starting sixty. Meekstone is memorable... because it caused one of the rare big match mistakes of Finkel's career.

The play was simple. Jon drew a Vicious Hunger. There were two Wild Dogs in play. One had Rancor on it. "Might as well make him spend the extra G," was probably what was running through Jon's head when be laid the Vicious Hunger on the 4/1 Wild Dogs... Of course he just ended up taking four Reckless Charge style the next turn. The problem? Jon played "automatic" Magic rather than concentrating on what was actually going on in the game and realizing that Meekstone was in play. Frank had sided it in against Finkel's Skittering Horrors, Phyrexian Negators, and so on. Because he had such a huge advantage over StOmPy, Jon probably just didn't realize that the 4/1 Wild Dogs was going to stay tapped and that killing the other was a better short term play that saved the most life. The small mistake didn't end up costing Finkel the match or anything, and in fact few onlookers even noticed the mistake, but Jon did, and even pointed it out after the game.

So what about this Jon Finkel? I actually got an email from Jon this week! That isn't actually so exciting, except that this particular email was a response to last week's article on the top 10 Extended decks of all time. Now I've actually seen Jon's copy of Deckade next to his bed for night reading, but I didn't realize that the busy Hall of Famer kept up with new weekly Magic articles... until last week's email.

Past all of the personal insults to my taste in decks -- all warranted for certain -- Finkel insisted that I mention his Chicago 1997 deck as one of the best Extended decks of all time ("certainly way better than the Tax/Rack"). Jon has always considered this one his masterpiece; it bought him his first Pro Tour Top 8 after all. The thing that is really special about this deck is how well the mana was balanced. Jon played a total of four blue cards, and they all cost UU... Years before Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta, he was able to get the mana to work using his Tithe engine and only 17 lands!

Jon Finkel's Four Color Prison

Pro Tour Chicago, 1997

This Prison deck is also the classic "switcheroo" transformative archetype. Jon started on an artifact-based combo lock deck (Icy Manipulator + Icy Manipulator + Winter Orb with Armageddon to speed things up was usually good for a win in 1997), but when his opponents sided out their Swords to Plowshares for Disenchants, in came his four drop beatdown creatures, out on turn three thanks to Sky Diamond.

About two years ago we ran a promotional event for Deckade where Jon was a special guest, gunslinging with old decks I had designed. He was, predictably, supposed to be playing Napster but as a surprise for him I secretly slipped in his landmark Chicago deck because earlier in the week he had told me it was his all time favorite. Jon's Winter Orb "combo" lost only to then-modern combo deck Heartbeat of Spring, complete with the Finkel-foiling Early Harvest, in the hands of future #1 Apprentice Asher "ManningBot" Hecht.

End aside.

A strategy that has been creeping up quietly on the format this season is Death Cloud. It actually came in second in the PTQ that Tom LaPille won a few weeks ago, and has peppered in three Top 8s this week. Here is a pretty representative example:

Isaac Green

3rd Place - Colorado - Denver - 2/9

These Cloud decks are basically beefed up versions of The Rock with a legitimate finishing bomb (Death Cloud itself) and a host of Planeswalkers to help out with the dirty work. Garruk Wild speaker + Golgari Rot Farm can ramp up the deck's mana, and Liliana Vess can soften up an opponent to set up Death Cloud or "Vampiric Tutor" to find the Cloud itself. The main advantage this strategy has in the metagame is that it is basically unstoppable for Next Level Blue. The main disadvantage -- and it isn't a huge one given the Putrefies and Pernicious Deeds -- is that just as its gigantic mana costs make life difficult for Counterbalance, Cloud doesn't play well against Gaddock Teeg.



Alexander Hayne

8th Place - Quebec - Montreal - 2/9

Heartbeat seems, once again, to be an underrated Extended deck. It has the two-for-ones to out-last Rock / Doran style disruption, a reasonably fast combo kill, and is possibly the best combo deck for actually beating control in an attrition fight. More than any of that, Sakura-Tribe Elder is just annoying for deck-of-the-hour Dredge, and Moment's Peace is basically two Time Walks, completely immune to Dredge's disruption suite. The inclusion of Remand in current Dredge decks just makes it more consistent and resilient. Silver Bullet? Gaddock Teeg again. The GW Kithkin Advisor puts a real hurt on the four mana two-for-ones
that give Heartbeat all of its oomph, and the scripted two drop destroyer Engineered Explosives is basically blank due to the X in its mana cost. That said, still an underrated and quite viable deck.

We'll be back next week for more Extended as the format progresses, but starting tomorrow, don't miss magicthegathering.com's live coverage of Pro Tour Kuala Lampur!

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