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A tale about the format Extended…

January 5, 2010

After watching my buddy (rygarrygar) taking down the MODO PTQ last sunday with an Affinity build (well-played David!) I was reminded of a phenomena that Extended have. Let me explain…

After have been playing now for a couple of years I have noticed a trend or a pattern if you will when it comes to the format Extended. This phenomena is pretty unique for Extended. For Type 1, the cardpool is pretty much the same year after year since nothing ever rotates out which means that the meta game shift are very small and decks changes very little over time. And then we have Standard (Type 2) which is so small that every rotation means a major overhaul.

Anyhow. This probably doesn’t have much strategic value but I think its pretty interesting that this pattern has repeated itself year after year ever since Ravnica was released. Now I think I have done enough build up for my hypothesis, let’s get on with it. The Extended part of the Magic year stretches from the fall Pro Tour each year until the end of the PTQ season the following year. During this time span, each Extended format has taken 5 turn of events. These can be described as follows:

The flop

“The flop” occurs during the fall Pro Tour and during the time people has been preparing for said event. Coming into these Pro Tours its has always been about the beat down decks and other pro active decks (often strictly combo decks) and then at the Pro Tour its been about can people stop these decks or not. Pro Tour Los Angels was coming in, it was all about Boros and how people could break the Dredge mechanic (mostly Life from the Loam). It turned out that yes, Antoine Ruel and his old school Tog deck could stop them all.

Then there was a blank during 2006 (the fall Pro Tour was Limited) and the during 2007 Domain Zoo was the default beat down deck and Dredge and Enduring Ideal was the big hype coming into the event. Once again the meta game was “solved” by a blue control deck. Then the following 2 years the proactive decks has prevailed and survived the hype. LSV took down Berlin 2008 with Elfball and Kibler this year with his Big Zoo deck.

The flop, revisited

The next stop in our travel is Worlds. At this point people are taking the results from “The flop” and then tries to attack the format once again. This period of time has traditional been stained by blue. Either Blue (control) decks are holding the lead from “the Flop” or they are gaining ground. During 05 and 06 ScepterChant (or No-Stick if you will) was big, 07 was a blank due Watzi wanted the pros to play Legacy instead, then 08 saw Faeries pushing forward but then this year was a break up. I guess you could stick it for ThopterBlue but that deck wasn’t so big at Worlds. That’s something for history to determine.

The missed and the forgotten

This stage takes place January and early February, usually ends sometime near after the first set of the year is released. As the title gives away, at the beginning of the year decks that people have “forgotten” about tends to rise again and/or decks that was just plain “missed” from last year gets it’s place in the sun. 2006 saw Friggerioid completely take over the meta during this period until Guildpact was released and the following years has seen Affinity have a short reign in the wake of all the flashy things that happened during “the flops”. This is were rygarrygars performance fits is perfectly by the way if you missed it.

The turn

When “the turn” rolls around, the format has been (at least to this day) steered by blue decks (by that I meant mostly blue controls deck). Tog, ScepterChant, Counterbalance, Whatever level of blue, Faeries… the list goes on but they are all blue control decks. They thrive at the stage because the format has stabilised when several PTQs have been played and the seasons GP is on the way. With the format “figured” out and with good information about what people are bringing to the events it’s easier to build decks that answers the threats (not rocket science, I know) of the format.

The river

The Extended part of the Magic year ends with “the river”. With blue decks at the top, the last evolution of the format is geared to face that. Tron has been the traditional trump to the blue decks. It’s not hard to figure why, it’s basically mirror matches except one deck has twice the amount of mana and more threats. Go figure who win in that fight. Tron wasn’t popular last year, instead Tomaharu Saito unleashed his Super Naya Aggro deck with clever innovations (Knight of the Relinquary for example) that the blue decks struggled to deal with.

That much pretty summarize my theory about the evolution of Extended each year. I think it’s quite interesting that every year has played out so similar each year, it’s uncanny. If you are a doubter, check out the archive coverage from the last few year and you will see what I mean.  I do however think that this is a trend that will be broken shortly. If not this year (where is blue-based control on Extended, does someone know?), when Mirrodin and 9th leaves Extended next fall a huge list of what we classify as Extended staples leaves the format. But that story is for another blog post.

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