I feel like I start every article off while I'm on tilt. Maybe that's the best way I know how to write since being angry gets my creative juices flowing. Maybe I'm just an angry person. Maybe I just lose a lot.
It comes with the territory of playing a lot though; you win some you lose some. At least writing clears my head and usually takes me off tilt. The last few weeks I tried a bit of something different and I wrote exactly how I was feeling with a little pizzazz on top. This week we're gonna get down to the nitty-gritty of Extended and I'm going to tell you how to beat all the decks you're likely to face at Grand Prix: Atlanta.
Over the last two weeks we've examined the two boogeymen of Extended:Faeries and Jund. While there are a ton of archetypes in the format these are the two most dominant when it comes to PTQ results thus far. Another archetype could easily overcome the two but right now this is where we stand.
Faeries is likely to pack about six removal spells — usually a mixture of Disfigure Peppersmoke Agony Warp Doom Blade Smother and Grasp of Darkness. People will almost always playing something different than someone else since each has a drawback but are great in certain situations — hence no two players have the same opinion.
Grasp of Darkness is edging out the rest at the moment since it can kill Putrid Leech Mistbind Clique and Woolly Thoctar. The cost of BB is the only thing hindering it from being a set #1 as far as pick-choice is concerned but it isn't that hard to attain.
Agony Warp suffers the same cost issue but is pretty amazing against some of the format's more aggressive decks. It is effectively a Healing Salve on top of killing a creature and can occasionally two-for-one your opponent if you have some Faerie tokens or a Mutavault in play.
Doom Blade can't kill Creeping Tar Pit or Putrid Leech so it usually sits on the bench — but it's pretty solid against Baneslayer Angel Primeval Titan and all those other hard-hitting fatties people seem to love casting.
With that in mind you can expect Faeries to run some number of these spells. Finding out which ones to play around can be tricky but not impossible. Agony Warp is pretty much always going to blow you out which sucks but you can play around it if you've seen it already or if your opponent is telegraphing it. Other than that they're going to one-for-one you until your fingers bleed.
When it comes to playing around their splashier spells Mistbind Clique and Cryptic Command are the source of all your headaches. Playing around one would be easy but playing around both is almost impossible. If your opponent has the open mana to cast either you should usually just cast your spells pre-combat because walking into Mistbind Clique is so much more devastating than having your spell countered.
The thing about Mistbind Clique is that it is usually just a 4/4 flying Time Walk — but people who play Faeries are usually smart enough to trick you into attacking first so that they get to kill a creature and tap all your lands in the process. Usually when this happens the game is over and you're dead. Those games are what we like to call "fun" for the person getting wrecked.
The thing most people haven't realized yet is that Faeries morphs into somewhat of a mediocre U/B control deck after game 1 against green decks. They side into Wall of Tanglecord and Wurmcoil Engine in order to stave off Great Sable Stag.
This means they'll have many more targets for cards like Deglamer. Being able to target Bitterblossom early on while you're racing or smacking Wall of Tanglecord so that your creatures can rush through or just nugging a Wurmcoil Engine on turn 6 just feels so good. The look on your opponent's face when they read the card will be priceless. This is one of the main reasons I don't want to play Faeries this weekend. If you have to drastically alter what your deck is trying to do to compete then you're probably not playing the right strategy.
If you're trying to beat Faeries be aggressive. Apply maximum pressure at an efficient rate and keep them on their toes. They're a tempo-based deck that needs a few things to go right in order for them to take control of the game. If you make their life hell you'll usually win. Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout are great starters but they won't do it by themselves.
Jund is a hard deck to hate out — but you can do it if you're trying enough. Decks like U/W Control give Jund fits because they can overcome the power of the deck's two-for-one spells with their own incremental card advantage and bombs like Sun Titan. With Kitchen Finks Wall of Omens and Vendilion Clique acting as speed bumps U/W Control can buy you enough time to draw running Cryptic Commands to close the door in a tight race.
While not all decks can run these cards it's good to know what kind of game-plan that can ruin Jund. Solid Fae draws containing multiple Mistbind Cliques or Cryptic Commands can put a beating on Jund but Jund has Terminates and Thoughtseizes to help disrupt the Faerie player in the meantime not to mention an aggressive curve and a real clock.
The key to beating Jund is to pack both efficient removal and disruption. Killing Fauna Shaman takes away a lot of the late-game power that Jund can threaten. Without access to Demigod of Revenge recursion they can do little about a random Day of Judgment or even just a few key removal spells. The deck is fairly diluted with removal like Terminate and Maelstrom Pulse so they won't always have a follow up after you kill a few of their creatures. Bloodbraid Elf helps in this regard — but you can't keep a good elf down and she's always going to give everyone problems.
With most people following my lead these days in cutting Blightning from the deck you can be a little less afraid of getting burned out from below ten life. While this might give you a small window to work with you could still get blown out by the singleton (or multiple) Anathemancer if you're not careful.
Allowing Fauna Shaman to live is usually going to end in your destruction so be very careful. Mulligan fairly aggressively if you are a control deck and don't have an answer to an early play. You won't beat recurring Demigods very often and especially so against a smart player who won't run all four of them out there to get them tapped through Cryptic Command and then Wrathed away.
Disrupting their mana is also another possibility. Spreading Seas makes it almost impossible for them to cast Demigod of Revenge. Tectonic Edge is also a beating shutting off Raging Ravines — but it's not the end of the world. The combination of both however is pretty devastating.
Bant Charm is a very good answer to their creatures since it's an instant that puts Demigod on the bottom of the library and can kill Fauna Shaman early if you're on the play. You also get to permanently remove Kitchen Finks which is nice as he is a major source of both board advantage and card advantage for them.
Find a way to combat their card advantage. Jund relies on gaining board advantage through trading positively. Kill the important creatures and survive the ones that don't matter as much. If you are an aggressive deck they will take the control role against you so be aggressive. Play creatures that are hard for them to deal with such as Vengevine. If you're a control deck attack their mana if you can afford to. Cryptic Command is often used to bounce Raging Ravines to keep them off four to five mana giving you much needed time.
The mana base for Wargate is terrible and easily disruptable. If you can kill their lands with either Fulminator Mage Goblin Ruinblaster or Tectonic Edge do so. They won't have much in the way of recovering if you can apply some steady pressure in the meantime.
A lot of lists are switching back to Scapeshift so be wary of that. They will sit on their Prismatic Omens until they hit six mana then Scapeshift and blow you out of the water. This makes cards like Maelstrom Pulse virtually dead cards against them so be aware that most people will be reverting back to this game play.
There is also an R/U/G version that's become increasingly popular on Magic Online. It's almost the same deck but foregoes the white for Wargate in favor of a much more stable mana base. It plays things like Oracle of Mul Daya for acceleration relying on the same style of combo kill as Wargate — though it's more reliant on using Scapeshift. They're packed with Vendilion Cliques and counterspells to disrupt the opponent while they combo off and can kill you out of nowhere if you aren't careful.
Wargate decks are also incredible vulnerable to Gaddock Teeg. If you're playing G/W in any form or fashion you should look to sideboard in a lot of Gaddocks. The Wargate versions have virtually no answer since most of them don't sideboard any removal other than Day of Judgment which Gaddock Teeg conveniently shuts down. However once they hit six mana if they've naturally drawn Valakut and Prismatic Omen you might be in trouble if you don't have an answer for either. Almost every G/W deck should already be packing Qasali Pridemage to help fight Bitterblossom but Prismatic Omen is just as good a target.
Discard spells are solid against Wargate but not backbreaking. They play a ton of filtering cards like Ponder Preordain and Explore so you'll rarely know all the cards in their hand at a given turn after you Thoughtseize them. If you're able to fit Memoricide or Thought Hemorrhage into your list you can destroy them if you catch them tapped out by naming Prismatic Omen.
Disrupt their mana while applying pressure. Threats that double as disruption are preferred — things like Meddling Mage Tidehollow Sculler Gaddock Teeg and Qasali Pridemage. After sideboarding they'll be looking to cast Firespout or Day of Judgment so don't walk into it unless they're threatening to combo you the next turn.
The best way to combat Naya is to ignore their creatures completely. It is very difficult to win a creature battle with someone playing both Vengevine and Bloodbraid Elf so you're likely to fail if you waste your time trying to kill their creatures.
Fae's best way to handle this problem is to slow them down by killing their early mana accelerants then using Bitterblossom and Wall of Tanglecord as a Forcefield while you beat them to death with Creeping Tar Pits and Mistbind Cliques. Cryptic Command goes a long way shutting down their aggressive plan and most versions don't have any reach so tapping down their creatures is a pretty safe bet.
Just remember that if you're going to choose "Tap creatures; bounce target permanent" as your mode they can counter your spell by removing the target you're trying to bounce or even blow you out further by using Knight of the Reliquary to give the creature you're targeting protection from blue.
Jund's best way to attack Naya is to go for the Demigods. Use your removal on the more important threats but focus on chaining Demigods so that you can go for the throat on turn 5. Otherwise they'll overwhelm you with a large force of sizeable monsters which will outclass your measly 3/2s. Demigod is a great blocker here since you can bring him back by casting another. People won't expect it sometimes and you can catch them off-guard and kill them out of nowhere.
Kitchen Finks is king here buying you just enough time to find your Fauna Shamans and Demigods to take over. If they never draw Vengevine or you kill their Fauna Shamans it's very likely that you can take control of the game with an early Putrid Leech. Just kill their more important fatties like Knight of the Reliquary and Woolly Thoctar and you should be fine.
As a general rule don't let Fauna Shaman stick around. Ever. You're usually going to lose if someone gets to activate it multiple times. Try to race them with cards like Cryptic Command and Mistbind Clique or have a Day of Judgment at the ready. They're soft to sweepers but they can always topdeck another Bloodbraid Elf into a creature and return Vengevines. Their mana is ridiculous so don't bother messing with it other than killing their Raging Ravines or Stirring Wildwoods.
Gain life. Kill their creatures. Pretty simple.
They have a lot of reach and you're not in any position to race them. I would recommend using a removal spell over playing a creature about 90% of the time unless the creature is Kitchen Finks and he's staring you down with Goblin Guides. Otherwise play the Maelstrom Pulse while they're tapped out.
If you're deck is playing Deathmark in the sideboard don't be afraid to side one or two of them in since it kills Figure of Destiny and Boggart Ram-Gang. You rarely want to draw two but if you can't kill Figure of Destiny otherwise then it might be necessary. (They're never siding Figure of Destiny out.)
If you can afford to play cards like Leyline of Sanctity and Runed Halo feel free. Those cards are pretty tough for them to deal with — but they can still kill you in a variety of ways. Look for smarter players to be splashing green for Bloodbraid Elf and potential ways to deal with Leyline of Sanctity. I would recommend Deglamer as it deals with Wurmcoil Engine too who takes control of the game if you haven't quite been able to finish them off yet.
As I stated earlier kill their creatures and try to gain life or give yourself shroud. Either way you should be fine. Most red players are not the most brilliant magicians but don't underestimate a good player piloting the deck . It is incredibly powerful and can kill you out of nowhere with Flame Javelins and Burst Lightnings.
I consider this deck more of a fringe strategy — but Mirrodin Besieged has already shown us some promising new weapons. If you plan on beating this deck you must do so with sweepers. Arc Trail is also really insane against them but you will usually need another removal spell or two to finish the job. They play a lot of creatures and very rarely get flooded. Chances are if their Elvish Archdruid stays in play you're losing the game.
They're not quite the same as other aggressive decks since they have a combo kill when they can't push through damage. Joraga Warcaller helps in this endeavor since he is conveniently pumped via Oran-Rief the Vastwood as well as Bramblewood Paragon. Many aggressive lists have been spotted recently on Magic Online featuring throwbacks like Wren's Run Vanquisher and they might be more popular since they're much easier to play.
Player sweepers. One or two spot removal spells isn't going to cut it.
Overall I feel like this format is incredibly healthy though a few decks stand out like sore thumbs. I'm sick of playing against Bitterblossom and wish the card would just rotate out already… But if it wasn't for Faeries another random control deck would take its place anyways and we'd all be bitching about that.
I'm not sold that Faeries is the best deck. I know it's good don't get me wrong. Mistbind Clique is just absurdly overpowered but you can beat it if you try and people are just now trying hard enough to make me the guy who used to love playing Bitterblossom switch to a new deck before the Grand Prix.
For what it's worth I'm playing Jund. I've got 70/75 cards set already and the rest is only up for debate because I haven't done enough testing (though I've played about thirty matches with the deck). Some tutor targets and land disputes have come up but nothing major. Hopefully it'll put me through to a respectable finish. I would much rather play any deck that didn't have a target on its back like Faeries does at the moment.
Good luck to everyone this weekend — and feel free to come up and say hi and introduce yourself!
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on MOL