Why Haven't You Overextended?
Before I get started this week, I want to thank everyone who has participated in the loosely titled “What Makes a Champion” survey about which I wrote two weeks ago! As of July 2, we have over 1,400 responses to the questionnaire! That's going to make for some very interesting data. In order to have time to analyze the data and write up the findings for my next article, I'm going to close the survey on July 9 (Saturday) at 11:59 pm EST. If you still haven't taken the survey and want to contribute to the beginning of what I hope to be a much more expansive project…
Now—on to the meat of the article.
Last week, I got the chance to play in my first ever “Overextended” tournament on Magic Online, and I'm hooked. Because it is a developing format, there is significant room for innovation, but, aside from Tarmogoyf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor (did you guys know he's banned in Standard?!?!), there isn't a significant cost-barrier to entry.
But what is Overextended? There's a comprehensive website (www.mtgoverextended.com) with details about the format, but for those of you who want a quick rundown here, I've provided a brief unofficial summary:
Overextended is a player-sponsored Constructed format headed by SCG author Gavin Verhey. All Magic expansions released beginning with Invasion and Seventh Edition are legal for use, with the exception of a preliminary banned list (Aether Vial, Bridge from Below, Disciple of the Vault, Dread Return, Hypergenesis, Mind's Desire, Narcomoeba, Sensei's Divining Top, Skullclamp, and Sword of the Meek). The next Banned/Restricted announcement will take place on July 7, but it is clear that significant reasoning has gone into these decisions. Gavin prepared an initialarticle on the subject here and wrote much more in depth about each individual card here.
Every Tuesday, at 12:30 pm EST and 8:30 pm EST, there are Tuesday Overextended tournaments, run in the style of Magic Online's Daily Events (Swiss, four rounds, prizes to all 3-1 and 4-0 players paid out in tickets, based on attendance). The tournaments are free to enter more information here).
One common thread that I've seen following the recent Standard banned list update, aside from at least 40 articles beginning with the sentence “So Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic are banned in Standard…” is the statement “Wide-open, fresh formats are the most fun time to play Magic.” That, my friends, is the initial appeal of Overextended. Go for the innovation, stay for the awesome format.
The first week of tournaments illustrated what seemed to be a wide-open format, with twelve different archetypes represented in the Top 16. Initially, the format appeared to be an amalgam of Extended and Legacy, with popular archetypes, with modifications, from both formats making a showing:
Control: Astral Slide, NinjaBlade, DepthsBlade, MadTog
Aggro: Affinity x2, Zoo, Burn x2
The second week, unbelievably, added several variants of previous archetypes to the Top 16 and a whopping six new archetypes to the previously successful lists. These include B/W Midrange, both U/G and Mono-U TwelvePost, All-in-Red, U/B Tron, Pyromancer Ascension, and Gifts Rock.
In the third week, the format began to run in Daily Event style, and an additional eight archetypes were 4-0 and 3-1 decklists, including Scepter-Chant, U/W Stoneforge, Soul Sisters, Boros, Mono-U Pickles, Hawkward, R/G Ramp, and Jund.
As the weeks have rolled on (to my knowledge, a full five weeks of Overextended tournaments have been run this far, in addition to Worldwide Overextended Game Day, for which I do not have decklists), the format has continued to grow and become diversified.
What should be especially intriguing for many of us, though, is the incredibly low barrier of entry into this format. A competitive Legacy-style combo deck like Hive Mind is fairly expensive to obtain in real life. Budget-busting cards in Thomas Ma's winning list from the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open in Denver, CO, include Force of Will, Underground Sea, Show and Tell, Intuition, Grim Monolith, City of Traitors, Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand, Volcanic Island, and other marginally expensive cards.
An Overextended Hive Mind list, such as the one piloted by KIDBUU to a 4-0 finish in the third week of tournaments, is substantially cheaper.
The two Zendikar-block fetchlands (Arid Mesa and Scalding Tarn) might cost us a few dollars each, and Pact of Negation sells for around $5.50 online, but the rest of the deck is amazingly cheap, ranging from 12 cents for a copy of Hive Mind to 80 cents for a copy of Pact of the Titan. For a player who has no real Magic Online collection, it is possible to assemble a winning Overextended combo deck for around $30.
Unbelievably, other successful combo decks can be purchased with even less investment. Voidmaw's Living End deck, which put up a 3-1 finish in the same tournament, runs a few fetchlands (Verdant Catacombs), eight Scars of Mirrodin dual lands (which cost about 40 cents each online), and some copies of Fulminator Mage (around $2), and Living End (30 cents a copy).
- 4 Deadshot Minotaur
- 4 Fulminator Mage
- 4 Igneous Pouncer
- 2 Ingot Chewer
- 4 Jungle Weaver
- 4 Monstrous Carabid
- 3 Shriekmaw
- 4 Street Wraith
- 1 Dryad Arbor
This is another successful combo deck that likely can be purchased for fewer than $20. For players for whom cost is a significant barrier to entry to formats like Legacy and Vintage, but who want to experience the incredibly varied metagame stemming from a historical amalgamation of Magic cards, Overextended is an excellent option.
But what about those of us for whom cost is a less-significant concern? Is the format really as diverse as advertised?
In the most recent set of Tuesday events, over 40 different types of decks were represented among the winning lists. Most interestingly, given the banning of Dread Return, Bridge from Below, and Narcomoeba in this format, there was the 4-0 finish posted by Pedestrian playing Dredge! Rather than relying on the typical strategies that made Dredge an Extended powerhouse and a Legacy role-player, he used the following list:
- 3 Bloodghast
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 2 Golgari Thug
- 4 Ichorid
- 2 Psychatog
- 4 Putrid Imp
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
- 2 Wonder
Synergy between cheap, quick creatures (Ichorid, Bloodghast, Zombie tokens) and evasion (Wonder), in addition to traditional dredge components and a few copies of Psychatog, made this a fearsome deck. Almost more important than the 4-0 record, though, is what this particular deck represents in the Overextended format: Innovation. Most players with whom I spoke about this format, prior to last week, didn't consider Dredge to be a viable archetype. Without three of the most powerful components of the traditional shell available, it simply was written off. And then…
With such an expansive card pool and a relatively undefined metagame, there is value to be gained in testing new ideas, looking through lists of cards, and working to create something viable.
For example, much ado (briefly) was made about a deck using Necrotic Ooze to abuse graveyard synergies in Extended last year. Many of us probably have forgotten about it completely, and the price of Necrotic Ooze online comfortably has settled to less than 30 cents. Last week, though, Theiz posted a 3-1 record with an interesting Ooze-Rock variant.
This deck attacks the format on a number of different levels. First is the obvious Dark Depths/Vampire Hexmage engine. This synergy is strengthened by the deck's namesake, Necrotic Ooze, which, once a Vampire Hexmage is in the graveyard, can remove the counters itself! Second, the deck has the now-familiar Stoneforge Mystic package with Sword of Feast and Famine and Batterskull which, while still effective, is not nearly as overpowering in this format as it was in Standard. Third, the deck has the Necrotic Ooze, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Mogg Fanatic package (i.e., if Kiki-Jiki and Mogg Fanatic are in the graveyard, Necrotic Ooze can copy itself to make a hasted copy that can copy itself and then sacrifice itself to the Mogg Fanatic's Ability for a point of damage… ad infinitum). Finally, the deck has resilience with a Living Wish sideboard and use of a card many of us never considered for Constructed play: Postmortem Lunge! While Makeshift Mannequin has a similar ability at the same cost and at instant speed, the fact that the combo requires the Necrotic Ooze to target itself requires the use of a replacement reanimation effect.
With so many different ways to “combo out,” playing against this deck is difficult: while we're being beaten down by creatures and Equipment, we need to anticipate the eventuality of being killed on the spot or facing down a 20/20 indestructible token!
- 4 Dark Confidant
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Mogg Fanatic
- 3 Necrotic Ooze
- 3 Stoneforge Mystic
- 3 Vampire Hexmage
- 2 Wild Mongrel
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Finally, I'll talk about my own contribution to the metagame: Naya Ponza or LD Zoo. After seeing numerous Facebook posts about Overextended, I knew that it was something that I wanted to experience. However, I had no idea about the website (again… www.mtgoverextended.com), and I didn't know that Gavin meticulously documents the results from the tournaments each week, and so I was flying by the seat of my pants. I assumed (somewhat correctly) that “Big Mana” strategies would be prevalent (i.e., Urzatron, 12-Post, and the like), and that control would have some place in the metagame, so I knew that I wanted to play a disruptive and aggressive strategy. I considered a B/W Midrange deck, but I wasn't sure exactly how to build it, and I don't have Dark Confidants online (which are fairly pricy), and so I settled on a Ponza-style list, which ended up finishing 3-1, with a loss to a more traditional Zoo deck and victories over U/B Twelve-Post, Scepter-Chant, and Pyromancer Ascension (a match in which I drew very well):
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 2 Greater Gargadon
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 3 Lotus Cobra
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
I wanted to be capable of aggressive starts with Stoneforge Mystic and Bloodbraid Elf while running disruption with Molten Rain, Boom / Bust (which is amazing with fetchlands because it targets, and with Flagstones of Trokair), and Thoughts of Ruin, which is a pseudo-Armageddon in the early game. To this end, I thought that Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, and Lotus Cobra would provide the necessary acceleration and mana production. I found Lotus Cobra to be “nice” when it worked, but I wasn't interested in ramping up to a Titan (as per RUG), and it often felt redundant.
In addition, the deck doesn't seem very well positioned against other aggressive decks. While I was able to take a game against Zoo, a single Relic of Progenitus makes Woolly Thoctar bigger than all of my creatures. As such, I think that the list needs to be modified prior to further use. In particular, the three Lotus Cobras can become a fourth Noble Hierarch, a Sword of Body and Mind (or perhaps Fire and Ice), and a Behemoth Sledge (which admittedly has no synergy with the Swords, so maybe it should be a Loxodon Warhammer). Further, the Skarrg was underwhelming and probably should be a second Raging Ravine to increase the number of red sources and the number of threats.
With the removal of a sword from the sideboard, and perhaps a Guttural Response (it wasn't very powerful, as I didn't see a lot of blue instants outside of the traditional Counterspell), it might be worth including several copies of Path to Exile as a means of removing creatures larger than 3/3 (i.e., Wurmcoil Engine, Woolly Thoctar, et al). If/when I play the list again, I'll probably try something like this:
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 2 Greater Gargadon
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Stoneforge Mystic
If you take away one message from this article, let it be: Go play Overextended! I'm thoroughly impressed with the direction in which Gavin has taken the format, and I hope to see more Magic players participate in the format in the weeks to come.