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What to expect from Austin

October 14, 2009

It’s almost time for the third Pro Tour of 2009 and that means the pros will battle it out with 3x Zendikar drafts and post-rotation Extended. That means that 8th is gone as well as Onslaught Block. A month or two ago it seemed like Extended would have been very different from last season with the Onslaught fetchlands leaving the format, but since there is a new cycle of fetchlands that have arrived with Zendikar the leap between seasons is going to be a lot smaller. Since talking about how Zendikar limited is going to play out at the Pro Tour is kind of lame, I will focus on the Extended format.

The foundation of Extended.

The foundation of Extended

As I said, this Pro Tours constructed part would have been very different if fetchlands is out of the equation. Fetchlands + shocklands and what that means for deckbuilding is what have really defined Extended since Ravnica came along in 2005. The “combo” of lands means that you can basically do whatever you want with your mana. 5cc blue? Domain Zoo? 5cc Gifts? Sure, the question is only how much life are you willing to spend for the mana. If the Zendikar didn’t include a new set of fetches it would mean that the format would be heavily reformed. Aggro decks wouldn’t be able to play with more than 2 colors without having problem with the mana, the blue decks would have to restrain themselves on all the techy splashes (Ancient Grudge, multiple colors for Engineered Explosives etc.) and so on. Instead we can count on the fact that the mana will be pretty much the same for Austin and onwards compared with last season. 

Losses:

It’s really hard to talk about gains (except the fetches obviously, which will pretty much replace the Onslaught fetches) but I can talk about important losses. The 2 vital losses from last year is 1, Riptide laboratory and 2, many elves from Onslaught that were important for the elf deck.

 Riptide Labratory was a fixture last season for the blue decks. Being able to basically recur Spellstutter Sprite, Vendilion Clique and Venser, Shaper Savant was a huge beating and gave that deck a long term plan that was really hard to beat for most decks. I mean, there will definetley be blue deck this season but that archetype need to redesign it’s long term plan. Also the elf deck took a huge bullet with Onslaught leaving. Sure, the core of the actual combo is still legal in Extended but a lot of the cards that made that deck consistant is gone. Wirewood Symbiote, Wirewood Hivemaster and Birchlore Ranger is gone, along with the really good sideboard option Fecundity. Also with Hivemaster gone, Chord of Calling got a lot worse. I’m think an elf combo deck will be possible in future Extended but archetype will probably look more like the elf combo deck from last seasons Standard.

That are the biggest factors in terms of losses. Sure, all the dirty goblins from Onslaught are gone and some good sideboard options from 8th (Boil, Choke, Fecundity etc.), but those are minor losses compared with Riptide Laboratory and the elves.

What can be expect from Austin, deckwise? 

The decks that can be expected to see and prevail during the upcoming weekend can be divided into the Top Dogs, the Contenders, and lastly the Cinderella’s.

The Top Dogs:

Naya Zoo/Ranger Zoo:

Naya Zoo was the dominating aggressive deck leaving Extended earlier this year. Constructed mastermind Tomaharu Saito rattled of 2 GP wins with this deck last season and many people got themselves qualified for Honolulu with this deck. The deck started out with all the five colors (Domain Zoo) but as the season progress the deck lost some dead weight to become the streamlined killing machine that it is. Really efficient creatures such as Wild Nacatl, Tarmogoyf and Wooly Thoctar backed with burn can take you far in Extended. The deck lost virtually nothing with the rotation, the only notable thing is that the deck now only got Arid Mesa as on color fetchland which will make the manabase a little more painful in the future. This is the aggressive deck everybody has in mind for the upcoming weekend.

Faeries/Some Level Blue/etc.:

The other big dog last time around was the blue control deck of the format, commonly known as Faeries. It’s really hard to point out a general decklist for this archetype since thanks to the fetchland+shocklands combo the number of ways you can play a blue control deck is seemingly endless. Typically you will see some Spellstutter Sprite, Vendilion Clique, Venser, Shaper Savant along with Ancesteral Visions, Vedalken Schakles and what nod. A difference from last season is that this deck no longer has access to Riptide laboratory. Riptide laboratory was used a semi-lock in the late game for this deck, being able to reuse Spellstutter Sprites and co. Losing Riptide Laboratory is not the end of the world for this archetype, it just need to find a new angle to approach the metagame. What that angle is I’m sure we will find out soon.

The Contenders:

Tron

Tron was a deck had some game in the format last season, but was never a real star last time around. This is an archetype that would love to see the fetches go since that would slow down the format. Tron couldn’t really keep up with the pace the aggressive decks of the format last season and the pace doesn’t seem to slow down this time around. The question is also what plan you go for with Tron. Do you go UW, UG or UB? Is your plan to Mindslaver lock your opponent or do you go for Tooth and Nail? Questions to be answered.

Hypergenenisis.dec:

Seems to be the big combo deck coming into Austin. Didn’t really loose or gained anything from the rotation.

Burn:

Not much to say here either. Land, bolt you seems to be a plan that works in Extended. Losing Sulfuric Vortex stinged pretty badly but gained Lightning Bolt from M10 and might be able to pick up a trick or two from Zendikar.

Bant/Doran/”Green aggressive decks without red”:

The branch of aggro/midrange seems to be the natural foil to Naya Zoo. Particular Bant picked up speed as the last season progressed. As Naya Zoo became more and more popular, the number of Bant decks popping up increased equally. Whats define this branch of decks is they usually play a lot of good creatures and packs stuff to win against other creature decks. Umezawa’s Jitte, Sword of Fire and Ice comes to mind, but also sometimes Worship. While being good at beating up Naya Zoo, the deck is otherwise pretty fair and tends to struggle against “unfair” decks. This kind of deck is usually not a very good Pro Tour deck because of that fact, but depending how much aggressive strategies Austin will have you never know for sure.

Death Cloud Rock:

DC Rock lost the cycling lands from the rotation, so Life from the Loam lost a lot of it’s power in this format (and for this deck). So this archetype need to evolve for the upcoming format. I still think Death Cloud will be the factor due to the raw power of Death Cloud. If you can even remotely set up a Death Cloud, you will win against almost any other deck in the format. Be aware…

The Cinderella’s:

This is the pool of decks that is “under the radar”, which pretty much deck that no one is expecting or gunning for. This does off course not mean that those decks are bad or anything, they are just “Deck Incognito”, deck yet to be discovered. Last year Elves came almost out of nowhere and took the title in style. Will we see a similar performance this year? I’m thinking Storm, Elves, Tezzerator, Affinity,Merfolks or perhaps Dark Depths combo might have a shot, a Cinderella’s shot. Affinity is a known deck and respected which is also the problem. There are just to good hate against Affinity these days for that deck to have a shot at winning when people are expecting it. Affinity need the cinderella angle to prevail. And lastly, Zendikar might have brought something unexpected to Zendikar that will rock everybody socks. Time will tell.

Pro Tour Austin 2009

Pro Tour Austin 2009

Before I close out this session I want to wish my fellow swedes good luck in Austin. Go on and take it down! Until next time…

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